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USF has done well addressing athletes graduation rates

Compared to other college athletes in the U.S., USF players’ graduation rates are shockingly low, according to recently published NCAA statistics for athletes who started college in 2003.

With USF football’s graduation rate falling to a mere 46 percent, the team dropped to the lowest academic ranking in the Big East conference, and was ranked among the lowest of all NCAA Division I teams.

Men’s and women’s basketball players were also ranked among the lowest within the conference.

The statistics, however, do not reflect recent strides USF Athletics has taken to raise graduation rates.

Athletes face very rigorous schedules and are constantly on the road, missing classes and struggling to catch up. USF recognized this last year and signed a deal with Apple in hopes of creating a constant learning environment for athletes, even on the road.

Now, every student-athlete has a personal MacBook Pro to assist with their studies. In addition, Mac computers have been added to study lounges, so academic advisers can keep in touch with traveling athletes through iChat.

Also, many athletes are now required to complete tutoring and study hall hours, and coaches have taken more prominent roles in enforcing academic success.

USF’s efforts to improve academic standing within athletics are of the utmost importance and should be continued. Student-athletes are the most public and scrutinized students at the University. Athletes are expected to balance performing on the field with their personal and academic lives.

The pressure is high, but standards must be upheld. USF is doing its best to follow through.

“During the 2009-10 academic year, our 465 student-athletes combined to produce an outstanding cumulative 3.0 GPA with 62 individuals earning a perfect 4.0 GPA,” Doug Woodward, USF athletics director, said in a statement to the St. Petersburg Times.

With promising academic success like those, higher graduation rates are sure to follow.

With such poor graduation statistics for athletics as a whole, many successful teams are being overlooked. The men’s and women’s golf teams both achieved 100 percent graduation rates, according to NCAA statistics. Women’s soccer and softball were close behind with graduation rates at 96 percent and 94 percent, respectively.

The steps taken to improve graduation rates among student-athletes at USF are undeniable, and their importance unparalleled. These efforts must be taken into consideration before dismissing academic success of USF’s student-athletes as a whole.

Tara Petzoldt is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.