The independent news organization of Duke University

Duke 1st in new NCAA evaluation

An NCAA report released Thursday said college athletes nationwide are graduating at higher rates than before, with Duke as the leading institution for student-athlete graduation rate.

Duke's administrators said the report-which was compiled from incoming freshman athletes in the 1999-2000 academic year-only confirmed the University's position as a leader in academics and athletics.

"I am delighted with the news," President Richard Brodhead wrote in an e-mail. "It strongly underlines Duke's commitment to athletic excellence within a context of academic values and educational accomplishment."

Within a six-year span after their enrollment, 91 percent of Duke's student-athletes graduated, compared to the 63 percent average for student-athletes nationwide. Over the same period, 93 percent of Duke's overall student body graduated, as opposed to 61 percent nationally.

The release of the report comes amid the ongoing debate over the balance of athletics and academics at Duke, sparked recently by the men's lacrosse scandal. Some faculty have said the University should de-emphasize athletics, while many others have urged for the University to remain strong in its commitment to its sports programs.

Thursday's report came as no surprise to members of the athletics department.

"It's not new news-we've been doing the same thing for years and years," said Chris Kennedy, senior associate athletics director. "It's always nice to have actual stats to point to, showing that you're doing things right.

"Some people are going to be critical no matter what, finding something behind particular statistics. But it is good to have some objective standards to indicate that we're being successful," Kennedy added.

Beyond Duke, three other institutions-Boston College, Bucknell and Northwestern-graduated at least 90 percent of their student athletes over the selected period.

According to the NCAA's study, the graduation rates for both athletes and non-athletes were up one percent from last year nationally. Female student-athletes outpaced their non-athlete counterparts, graduating at 71 percent, while male student-athlete lagged behind at 56 percent.

Graduation rates for men's and women's basketball improved three and one percent, respectively, while football's rate remained unchanged.

"The academic achievement of our student-athletes continues to improve," NCAA President Myles Brand said in a statement. "It is becoming one of our greatest success stories."

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