UK near back of SEC pack in NCAA's graduation rate

jtipton@herald-leader.comNovember 19, 2009 

Kentucky's basketball and football programs trailed most Southeastern Conference teams when the NCAA released its latest Division I graduation success rates Wednesday.

Kentucky had the ninth-best Graduation Success Rate among the 12 SEC men's basketball programs. Only Georgia, Louisiana State and Tennessee had a poorer graduation rate for the period (incoming freshmen from 1999 through 2002). The rating reflects a program's ability to graduate players within a six-year period.

Vanderbilt and Alabama shared the best SEC rating at 85. UK was at 31.

Kentucky, with a 55, was No. 10 among the 12 SEC football programs. Only Tennessee (52) and Arkansas (52) had a lower rate.

Vanderbilt (91), Mississippi (69) and Florida (69) posted the best SEC ratings in football.

The national average for men's basketball was a rating of 64. For Football Bowl Subdivision programs, it was 67.

UK's compliance officer, Sandy Bell, noted that a coaching change hindered Kentucky's effort to graduate basketball players.

She also said players who turn professional and do not graduate within a six-year period hurt a program's rating. But, she acknowledged, early entrants in the NBA Draft also affect North Carolina, Duke, Kansas and other basketball dynasties.

A sampling of incoming freshmen over a four-year period can be skewed by one or two players, she said.

Bell voiced support for another measurement, the Academic Progress Rate. It better reflects a program's attitude toward classroom performance because it is more current and covers a program's ability to keep players on track for a degree.

In the latest APR, released on May 1, UK men's basketball's rating of 979 placed it in the nation's top 10 percentile. The NCAA seeks a rating of 925 or better.

Men's basketball was the school's only athletic program to be in the top 10 percentile, which earned it a Public Recognition Award.

Football posted a 948 in the APR, which ranked in the 60th-70th percentile within the sport.

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