For the fifth time in the Big 12 Conference's nine-year history, Baylor posted the highest student-athlete graduation rate among member schools, according to the latest National Collegiate Athletic Association study.
The Bears' most-recent overall graduation rate, for the freshman class that entered in the 1997-98 academic year, was 78 percent, a Baylor record by four percentage points over the previous high of 74 percent in 2000. That figure also was eight points higher than Baylor's general student population and 16 points better than the NCAA Division I national average of 62 percent.
"These outstanding graduation rates are a credit to our student-athletes who exhibit dedication and a strong work ethic in their academic endeavors," said second-year Director of Athletics Ian McCaw, whose department has finished either first or second in the Big 12 graduation rates survey eight times. "We are fortunate that our head coaches and academic support staff are deeply committed to the academic success of our student-athletes."
Baylor also graduated a Big 12-best 76 percent of its male student-athletes and a league-high 82 percent of its female student-athletes. Five Baylor programs (women's basketball, women's golf, softball, men's tennis and women's tennis) recorded 100 percent graduation rates, and another five teams recorded a mark of at least 75 percent for the survey period. The Baylor football program produced a Big 12-leading 88 percent graduation rate, marking the fifth time in the league's history it has set the standard for classroom excellence.
"This is the first time we've done it all the way across," said Don Riley, who serves as Baylor's director of student-athlete services. "And football, 88 percent, wow! That's unbelievable."
The NCAA graduation-rates study has tracked entering classes of student-athletes annually since 1991. The study is a product of the Student Right to Know Act, a federal law that requires institutions to provide graduation-rate data to prospective student-athletes, parents, high school coaches and counselors as part of the recruiting process. The percentage is derived from the number of freshmen on athletic aid in the 1997-98 school year who earned their degree in six years.
All told, 88 percent of Baylor student-athletes who exhausted their eligibility and entered from 1988-89 through 1997-98 have left with degrees in hand, according to the NCAA study. That is five points higher than the national average.
"In my opinion, if they don't leave here with a degree in hand, we've failed them in some area of their educational experience," McCaw said.
"With our mission, our emphasis must be on graduating our student-athletes," he added. "And we have consistently done a good job in that area."