CMU ranks ninth in MAC in student-athlete graduation success rate
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series about student-athletes’ academics at Central Michigan University. This comparison focuses on the most recent graduation success rate of a four-year cohort from 2002-05, each with a six-year window, concluding with the 2010-11 academic year.
Central Michigan University ranks ninth in the Mid-American Conference in the most recent NCAA graduation success rate report, graduating 75 percent of its student-athletes – the lowest rate since the 1998 cohort.
The most recent GSR is calculated as a four-year cohort from 2002-05, each class given a six-year window to graduate from their institution.
“We certainly want to be as high as we can be, and we’ve very conscious of the GSR,” Director of Athletics Dave Heeke said. “There are a number of factors as you look at that six-year window and how that can play out.”
Six of CMU’s 14 varsity sports rank first in the MAC, including field hockey, men’s cross country, men’s track and field, wrestling, softball and gymnastics.
Of those programs, field hockey, gymnastics and softball reported 100-percent graduation rates over the given timeframe.
“It’s a great illustration of the strength of the academic profiles of the student-athletes we bring in,” Heeke said. “And, most importantly, it speaks of the type of head coaches we have that value that in their recruiting process, because that’s what it’s about.”
Three of CMU’s most popular programs haven’t reported such high graduation rates. Its football, baseball and men’s basketball programs each scrape the bottom of the conference.
Men’s basketball ranks the lowest, with a 40-percent graduation rate, followed by football’s 47 percent and baseball’s 64 percent.
For baseball and football, athletes can leave after their junior year for professional leagues, which baseball head coach Steve Jaksa said hurts the sports’ graduation rates.
“Guys can leave early, so when they leave after their third year, they won’t get their degree until after they play,” Jaksa said. “The average guy plays three to five years, and I’m not going to say (students coming back to get their degrees) has been perfect, but it’s been pretty good.”
Basketball forward Zach Saylor said athletes’ ability to leave for the NBA after a year hurts the sport’s graduation rate.
“With the NBA, there are one-and-done players, whereas in football you’ve got to stay three years,” the Lansing graduate student said. “I’ve heard players say, for the NBA, it’s perform well and go while you’re hot.”
The NCAA made it mandatory for institutions receiving student financial aid to publish their graduation rates in 1990 as a consequence of the Student Right-to-Know Act.
“The change in the rules by the NCAA brought more focus and more attention,” Heeke said. “As a result, campuses around the country began to look at their own systems to see how we can enhance our academic assistance for student-athletes.”
Rival Western Michigan University ranks third in the MAC with an 82-percent GSR, while Eastern Michigan University ranks 10th with a 74-percent rate.
Miami University (Ohio) leads the conference with a 91-percent GSR, ranking first in four sports, including football, which ranks 84 percent.
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