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Connecticut Basketball Graduation Rate A Stain on Jim Calhoun’s Legacy

Evan Habeeb-US Presswire

This past week the Associated Press released its preseason Top 25 college basketball poll.  The Connecticut Huskies did not make the list.

The first major college program banned from post-season play because of a poor Academic Progress Rate, the Huskies found themselves on another list released last week, the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR).

Unlike the APR, the GSR takes into account incoming transfers who graduate from a different institution than the one they started at and transfers who leave an institution in good standing.

Connecticut finished last among Division I schools with a sorry 11 percent GSR, compared to an NCAA average of 74 percent.

Down 25 percent from a year ago, the low GSR solidifies the Huskies men’s basketball program as an academic mess.  The question is, how large of a stain does this leave on retired coach Jim Calhoun’s legacy?

When Calhoun announced his retirement last month, compliments poured in from colleagues and commentators around the country.  Many at the Big East Conference media day spoke of how things would not be the same without Calhoun.  Perhaps they were talking about the graduation rates.

Take UCONN out of the equation and Big East men’s basketball programs exceed the national average.  Most had GSRs above 80 percent with three programs, Notre Dame, Villanova and West Virginia (now in the Big 12 Conference) at 100 percent.

Winning three national championships apparently earned Calhoun a pass. It certainly worked for former Maryland coach Gary Williams,  who won just one title.

Williams once had a graduation rate of less than 10 percent and went an entire decade without graduating a single player.  This past season some Maryland alumni objected to the school naming the basketball court after Williams, citing his dismal graduation rate, 21.4 percent over 15 years.

Of course opportunities to play in the NBA and internationally impact men’s basketball graduation rates. No shame in that.  After all the point of college is to prepare you for a career.

But we know the NBA is not overrun with Huskies and Terrapins. Makes you wonder what came of the 70 to 90 percent of their former players who left school without a degree.

Getting an education is ultimately the responsibility of the student athlete.  However, coaches must bare some responsibility for a pattern on academic failure under their leadership.

If we are going to praise coaches whose athletes consistently perform well in the classroom, such as Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, we need to condemn those who preside over constant failure.

This includes Calhoun.

 

Merlisa covers Georgetown and Big East basketball.  Follow her on Twitter: @merlisa