Off the court, anyway, Bucknell already has Kansas University beat.
All of the players who entered Bucknell's basketball program between 1994 and 1997 graduated within six years, according to a report released Tuesday. That compares with 60 percent of KU's players, which ranked ninth among the 65 men's teams in the NCAA tournament.
The two schools meet Friday in the tournament's first round.
"That's not going to make any difference on Friday," said Jon Terry, assistant athletic director at Bucknell. "I don't think we're going to start with a 10-to-nothing lead because we have a high graduation rate."
The report, "Keeping Score When It Counts: Graduation Rates for 2005 NCAA Men's and Women's Division I Basketball Tournament Teams," was compiled by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport and the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program, both at the University of Central Florida.
Richard Lapchick, the report's author, said some of the findings were "disturbing."
"When you look at the overall graduation rates for the men's teams, 43 of them would not be eligible for the tournament if a simple 50 percent minimum graduation rate for overall basketball student-athletes was in place on Selection Sunday," Lapchick said.
Women's teams fared better, with only eight falling below the 50 percent graduation rate.
KU making progress
Bucknell might not get an advantage on the basketball court because of the ratings, but officials there are proud of their team's accomplishments. Bucknell and Utah State University were the only two with perfect records during the time period.
"Kids who come to a place like Bucknell and other Patriot League schools -- which are like the Ivy League and other academic leagues -- come to get an education, and athletics are almost secondary. It's really a 50-50 priority to them."
KU, meanwhile, has been putting a new emphasis on academics, said athletic department spokesman Jim Marchiony. The department recently added several staff members and new computers to its academic support efforts.
He noted that the 2.88 GPA achieved by the men's basketball team in the fall was a record and that KU's four seniors -- Wayne Simien, Michael Lee, Aaron Miles and Keith Langford -- are on track to graduate in May, as is previously red-shirted junior Jeff Hawkins.
"The efforts that have been made over the last few years, I think, are yielding the kinds of results we and everybody else want," Marchiony said. "What we're concentrating on is what we're doing preparing student athletes to graduate and doing that job semester by semester and year by year."
Marchiony noted that the NCAA graduation rates, which Tuesday's report is based on, give a slightly outdated and incomplete picture of who's graduating. For instance, if someone transfers to KU and then graduates, that player still counts as a graduate of the original school.
Overall, 64 percent of student-athletes graduated from KU during the time studied. That tied for 25th among schools in the men's tournament.
The six-year graduation rate for the general population of KU students was 58.1 percent in 2003.
KU, like other universities, continued to see a gap between the graduation rates of black and white students.
"As for men's graduation rates, especially for African-American student-athletes, the dance has barely begun," Lapchick said of the overall black graduation rate among tournament teams.
At KU, 71 percent of white students graduated, compared with only 33 percent of black students.
"Race is an ongoing academic issue, reflected in the continued gap between graduation rates for white and African-American student-athletes," Lapchick said. "While rates for both groups have improved over the last few years, a significant disparity remains between graduation rates for white and African-American basketball student-athletes."
Marchiony said KU remained committed to all its athletes, regardless of their skin color.
"We've got what we think is a very strong support system for student athletes of every origin," he said.
|Graduation rates among men's basketball players at selected universities in the NCAA Tournament field. The figures measure the percentage of players who entered as freshmen in 1994 through 1997 and who graduated within six years.No. 1 Seeds