Monday August 11th, 2014

NCAA president Mark Emmert appeared on ABC's "This Week" Sunday to discuss the ruling in the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit and the Power Five autonomy decision, among other things.

During his appearance Emmert said "More [athletes] graduate than the students who aren't student-athletes," but according to the Tampa Bay Times' PunditFact project, Emmert's claim is only half-true.

The primary problem with Emmert's claim is the way graduation rates are calculated. The NCAA rate includes the number of student-athletes who graduated with six years of enrolling, including those who transferred "in good academic standing." The federal graduation rate does not include transfer students. If a student transfers schools, they are said to have failed to graduate, even if they receive their degree within six years.

More: Next steps in O'Bannon case: Both NCAA and the plaintiffs could appeal​

If the NCAA used the federal standards, the graduation rate would be much lower, according to PunditFact. The NCAA graduation rate for student-athletes is 82 percent, but the federal graduation rate for the same group is 65 percent, one point higher than the student body at large.

More from PolitiFact

Additionally, it’s difficult to compare the graduation rates and other academic successes of student-athletes to nonathletes because some programs keep their athletes up to NCAA academic standards "by any means necessary," said Dave Ridpath, a professor of sports administration at Ohio University. He referenced the recent controversy at the University of North Carolina, where some football players were registered for fake classes to get easy As.

The graduation rate also varies across different sports. Division I football and men's basketball players have a 70 percent NCAA graduation rate, while "more than half of the 18 women’s sports have graduation rates higher than 90 percent," PundiFact notes. The federal graduation rate for Division I men's basketball is 47 percent and 59 percent for D-I football players.

While graduation rates may be higher for athletes across all three NCAA divisions, PundiFact concludes that because "the graduation rates are not the same across all sports, divisions, schools or demographics, so a group with a particularly good or bad graduation rate could skew the overall results." Therefore, PundiFact finds Emmert's claim "half true."

- Dan Gartland


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