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October 25, 2012

Bears bring up the rear in GSR

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The NCAA today released its most recent Graduation Success Rate numbers for freshmen entering football programs from the years 2000 through 2005, and the news for Jeff Tedford and the Bears is not good.

The California football program is dead last in the Pac-12 Conference with a 48-percent GSR. The GSR is designed to show the proportion of student-athletes on any given team who earn a college degree. The Federal Graduation Range (FGR) is compiled by the U.S. Department of Education and is used as an indicator of academic success for college student-athletes. It measures the percentage of first-time, full-time freshmen who graduate within six years of entering their original four-year institution. Cal's FGR is 47 percent.

Cal's 48-percent GSR is a full five points lower than Arizona, and the 47-percent FGR is also worst in the conference, behind USC (48 percent).

Both rates are dead last in the entire California Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, which is to say that the football team is behind all other Golden Bears athletic teams in both FGR and GSR, including men's basketball.

The GSR, like the FGR, starts with all freshmen who enter college in a given year. The GSR is different in that it excludes from the denominator those athletes who leave the institution in good academic standing and includes in the numerator those who transfer into the institution and go on to graduate. The GSR better accounts for the high mobility of student-athletes.

To put these numbers into context, the five-year graduation rates for all students at the various schools stack up thusly: Stanford 92, Cal 89, UCLA 88, USC 86, Washington 76, Washington State 64, Oregon 64, Colorado 63, Arizona 55, Oregon State 54, Arizona State 53 and Utah 45.

Making the Bears' numbers even worse by comparison is the fact that both men's basketball and football -- across the board -- have set all-time GSR highs as measured by the 2000-2005 cohort of the study.

Cal has released a statement in response to the GSR numbers:

Today's release of the NCAA's annual report on what is known as the "Graduation Success Rate" shows that overall UC Berkeley student-athletes are earning their degrees at a rate that is near historic highs for the Cal athletics program. At the same time, however, the data also indicate that a few individual teams need to improve their academic performance.

"At Cal, we have set high academic standards for our student-athletes," Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour said, "and the overall figures are a result of their commitment to the classroom as well as the efforts of our coaches, faculty members and staff at our Athletic Study Center. However, this level of achievement and diligence must extend through all of our programs. We have already taken steps to support teams and individuals who need additional support. We will not be satisfied until each and every team measures up to the level of excellence expected at Cal."

The Graduation Success Rate (GSR) data are based on a six-year cohort, meaning that the latest report includes only those student-athletes who received athletic scholarships and enrolled at Cal as freshmen or incoming transfers from 2002-05, and completed their degree within six years.

The current GSR for all Cal student-athletes in this cohort is 80 percent, seven points higher than in 2005 - the first year results were tabulated - and only one point below Cal Athletics all-time high of 81 percent that was achieved two years ago. Three teams achieved a perfect 100 percent GSR -- women's golf, women's volleyball and women's water polo -- while 16 of 23 evaluated sports were at 85 percent or higher. Complete details of the GSR report are available HERE.

Men's basketball, which had experienced low graduation rates for several years, showed a significant rise in its GSR score, from 33 to 50 percent, due in part to an Academic Improvement Plan that was drafted specifically for the team back in 2004-05. Both of the team's student-athletes who entered Cal in the fall of 2005 earned their degrees and continued improvement is expected in the future.

At the same time, the report shows that the GSR for Cal football fell to 48 percent, down from 54 percent the previous year due, in large part, to the fact that only seven of 19 incoming freshmen in 2005 graduated within six years. Three additional members of that class have since received their degrees, but are not included in the success rate since their academic work was completed beyond the six-year time limit. Five student-athletes from that same class elected to enter the NFL draft before completing their degree requirements.

"This score is clearly unacceptable," head coach Jeff Tedford said. "While there is little a college coach can do to prevent players from entering the draft for professional leagues, we have an obligation and responsibility to do everything in our power to ensure our student-athletes succeed academically. We have many student-athletes who want to pursue NFL dreams, but it is essential that we emphasize the importance of them graduating in a timely fashion. I have made it absolutely clear to our coaches, players and staff that we must reverse this trend. In recent months, we have taken concerted action to improve the support provided through our Academic Game Plan and will continue to make sure this is a top priority in our program. We all share the responsibility to meet Cal's academic standards."

Additional steps recently taken to support the football program include the establishment of an Academic Performance Working Group comprised of senior administrators, Faculty Athletic Representative Bob Jacobsen, members of the academic support staff and the team's entire coaching staff. In addition, the football program now has a dedicated staff person whose responsibility is to help student-athletes remain in school, or return to campus to complete their degrees once their professional careers have ended.

"The implementation of these measures has already shown results, with 13 of the 18 seniors on our current roster expected to graduate this fall," Tedford said.

Similar efforts are also underway for other teams where academic improvement is needed and expected.

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