Though Kansas University’s basketball success has yet to be determined in the tournament field this year, it has already achieved some academic victories in the classroom.
An annual study released Monday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida examined the academic performance of all 65 teams in the 2009 NCAA men’s Division I basketball tournament.
KU had the sixth-highest Academic Progress Rate among teams in the tournament, and had graduation rates in line with the average figures from the tournament teams listed.
The study measured the latest available data, and tracked both Academic Progress Rates and Graduation Success Rates for all the teams. KU’s APR measure, which is used by the NCAA to measure student-athletes’ academic success and graduation rates, ranked sixth of all the teams in the tournament.
The top-ranked APR team was the University of North Carolina. The APR data used in the study was pulled from data collected during the years 2003-2007.
Jim Marchiony, an athletics department spokesman, cautioned that much of the data used in the study were old, and some had little to do with current coaches and players.
For example, he said, the graduation rates used were calculated using the freshman classes of 1998-99 to the 2001-02 seasons, and allowed six years for graduation.
Current head basketball coach Bill Self would have only coached the 2000-01 players for a year and the 2001-02 players for two years after arriving on campus in 2003, Marchiony said.
Marchiony credited students’ self-motivation for pursuing their education while balancing time-consuming practice and game schedules.
“We can’t get these numbers without a very dedicated faculty that understands the unique pressures of being a high-level Division I student-athlete,” Marchiony said.
The department also offers counseling and academic tutoring for its athletes, Marchiony said.
The study noted a gap between graduation rates for white and black athletes, with an average 23 percentage point gap between the two figures.
KU was one of only a handful of schools in the tournament that reported a higher graduation rate among its black basketball players — 67 percent — than its white basketball players, which had a 60 percent graduation rate.
Other schools had larger gaps in graduation rates. KU rival Missouri had a 25 percent rate among its black basketball players during the time period and a 100 percent rate among its white players.
Though graduation rates were not reported for KU’s first round opponent, North Dakota State, because of the school’s recent transition into Division I, the study did report an APR of 969 for the school, 12 points below KU’s score.
— Visit higher education reporter Andy Hyland's Heard on the Hill blog.