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October 14, 2008 - Graduation rates for athletes reach record level of 79%

By Steve Weiberg, USA Today

The rate for scholarship athletes arriving on campus in 2001 was a record 79%, the association said. The four-year average for the incoming classes of 1998-2001 was 78%, up a point from a year ago.

"Academic reform is alive and well on campuses nationwide," NCAA President Myles Brand said, though the numbers weren't as healthy for a number of high-profile programs in the marquee sports of football and basketball.

Well more than a quarter of the 300-plus Division I men's basketball programs had four-year grad rates beneath 50%, including 2008 Final Four qualifier UCLA (46%) and regional finalists Texas (31%) and Louisville (42%). The numbers lagged in particular in the nation's top six conferences — the Atlantic Coast, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pacific 10 and Southeastern — where 30 of 73 basketball programs graduated fewer than half their players.

Fourteen of them were NCAA tournament entrants last March.

In football, where Oklahoma sits No. 6 in the USA TODAY coaches' rankings and fourth in both the Associated Press media and Harris polls, the Sooners posted a 46% four-year grad rate that was fifth-lowest in the NCAA's Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-A). Georgia and Georgia Tech were only slightly better at 48%.

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