College athletics enjoying a new era of academic success

Clemson football head coach Dabo Swinney’s squad knows how to excel on and off the field. (The Big Lead)

It has often been said that college athletes are excelling on the field more than ever before, but the same is true in the classroom.

The NCAA announced Wednesday that the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for Division I athletes had climbed from 84 to 86 percent, a new record for the nation. The statistics were drawn from all NCAA student athletes who entered college in 2008 or later.

According to the report, basketball dominated the scene, as women’s basketball players totaled an 89 percent GSR, while men’s basketball players had a 77 percent GSR.

Football was not far behind. Bowl subdivision players had a 75 percent graduation rate, while championship subdivision players came in at 76 percent, four percent higher than the last survey in 2014, which recorded all athletes who entered college from 2007 up to that point.

The rates have come a long way. When the GSR statistic was introduced by the NCAA in 2001, it was only at 74 percent among all student athletes that had entered college since 1995. In perspective, the increase from 74 percent to 86 percent is equivalent to 16,565 more student athletes graduating than otherwise.

For the schools with the leading GSRs among student athletes, there doesn’t seem to be a cost of success on the playing field to be best academically.

ESPN reported this week that Clemson University football, ranked No. 1 in the nation, had the second best GSR of any FBS football program, with a GSR of 83.6 according to the NCAA’s latest statistics. The tigers only trailed the No. 8 TCU Horned Frogs, who boast an 83.8 GSR.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney spoke proudly of his program’s efforts, saying “it’s nice to be No. 1 and win games, but that [GSR] is my true scorecard.”

Swinney remarked that 115 of 120 seniors that have played under him during his tenure at Clemson have earned a degree.

The same trend of all-around success was seen in men’s basketball nationwide, as four out of the top five teams in the preseason rankings recorded a GSR of 90 percent or higher. The outlier was No. 1 North Carolina, with a GSR of 80 perecent.

Speculate all you want about players enrolling in convenient and less demanding areas of study, but one thing is clear: student-athletes understand the importance of walking out of college not just with good athletic standing, but also a degree.

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