Better metric needed to evaluate academic status of men's basketball team

WTNH recently reported on the relatively low graduation rate of UConn’s men’s basketball team compared with other top basketball teams throughout the U.S. They pointed out the condemnable academic history of the Huskies, referencing the fact that the NCAA banned the UConn men’s team three years ago from postseason play due to low academic success, and argued that despite slight strides made in graduation rates, UConn still falls far behind other schools.

These statements are made in light of the NCAA’s annual Graduation Success Rate (GSR) report, which was released on Wednesday, November 4. According to the report, the UConn men’s basketball team’s GSR came in at 20 percent. This is a marginal improvement over last year’s 17 percent and a rather significant increase over the measly eight percent graduation rate reported two seasons ago. To put these numbers in perspective, the GSR report shows other major basketball schools such as Houston with 25 percent and Duke with 100 percent graduation rates. 

These jarring statistics beg the question of how the GSR is actually calculated. According to the NCAA, which is a federally mandated metric for all schools offering athletic scholarships, in that it’s a Division I rate that takes into account transfers both in and out of the school as well as tracks graduation over the span of six years. In contrast, the FGR measures all transfers as academic failures. The GSR is intended to be closer to true student-centered graduation compared with the FGR.

Despite the GSR being allegedly more accurate than the FGR, it remains an imperfect metric. The GSR counts those who depart a school in good academic standing as a transfer into another school’s cohort while those who depart in poor academic standing are viewed as non-graduates. Neither system is a true longitudinal metric following the student athlete to graduation. Thus, the statements made by WTNH should be taken with a grain of salt.

While there’s no question that UConn needs to seriously address the basketball team’s academics, reports such as the GSR, which are somewhat inconclusive, undermine the academic integrity of not only the men’s team but also the university as a whole. None of this takes into account that the latest report is based on 2005-2008 cohorts at UConn, which hardly seems accurate for measuring the men’s basketball team’s current academic status.