Archive for Wednesday, March 27, 2002

KU tops in Final 4 graduation rates

March 27, 2002

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Academically, the Kansas Jayhawks already are champions.

Graduation rates for men's basketball at Kansas University surpass the three other teams going to the Final Four in Atlanta.

"We pride ourselves on the fact that our players truly are student-athletes," KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said Tuesday. "That's the standard that Coach (Roy) Williams has set for his program."

According the latest NCAA reports, completed in 2001, the four-year average graduation rate of students entering the KU men's basketball program from 1991 to 1994 was 64 percent.

Comparable percentages for the three other Final Four universities: Indiana, 43 percent; Maryland, 19 percent; Oklahoma, 0 percent.

KU basketball players' ability to achieve in the classroom was surpassed by only one other university that made the Sweet 16 in this year's tournament.

Duke's four-year average in men's basketball was 73 percent. After KU, there was Kentucky at 55 percent, Connecticut at 50 percent and Illinois at 46 percent.

In addition to Illinois, KU's vanquished foes in the tournament were a mixed bag. Holy Cross reported an average graduation rate of 75 percent, while Stanford handed diplomas to 100 percent of its basketball players. Oregon didn't do as well, graduating an average of 33 percent.

Hemenway said KU graduation rates weren't the result of students enrolling in degree programs that didn't offer significant challenges to student-athletes.

"Everybody knows that if you go to KU you're not going to be put in a jock-degree track," the chancellor said. "You'll have to go to class and study to be a basketball player at KU."

Overall, KU's graduation rate for the entire student body in a comparable four-year period was 54 percent. The three other Final Four schools: Indiana, 67 percent; Maryland, 63 percent; and Oklahoma, 46 percent.

Wayne Walden, who works daily with KU athletes in the Student Support Services program, said much of the credit for long-term achievement in graduation rates belonged to Bob Frederick, former athletics director.

"Bob Frederick certainly made a huge commitment to academics when he was here," Walden said. "He provided the resources for us to have some nice things."

The support services budget for KU athletics is nearly $1 million annually. Students benefit from academic tutoring in all subject areas as well as intensive academic counseling, he said.

He said that in the midst of March Madness, members of the basketball team had to buckle down and hit the books. During NCAA Tournament stops in St. Louis and Madison, Wis., KU set aside time for study hall. That doesn't mean it's easy for players to stay attuned to their classwork, however.

"There's no question ... it is tough to focus with all the demands," Walden said.

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