Stanford, Rice, Notre Dame, Air Force Are Academic Final Four

Stanford University, Rice University, the University of Notre Dame and the U.S. Air Force Academy already are college football’s bowl-bound winners, graduating the highest percentage of their players.

The Stanford, California-based Cardinal, who play Maryland Dec. 30 in the Foster Farms Bowl, had a graduation success rate, or GSR, of 99 percent, the best of any team headed to a bowl game, according to a study released today by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. Rice (95 percent), Notre Dame (94 percent) and Air Force (93 percent) completed the top four.

The annual study found that the overall GSR for bowl-bound teams is 73 percent, one percentage point higher than a year earlier. While both white and black players graduated at a better rate than their non-athletic student-body peers, the average GSR for white football players was 85 percent, compared with 67 percent for black players.

“We saw the gap decrease slightly between African-American and white graduation rates, which is encouraging,” Richard Lapchick, the founder and director of the Institute, said in a phone interview. “On the other hand, it’s still at an unacceptable level.”

The GSR, compiled by the U.S. Department of Education and National Collegiate Athletic Association, measures the percentage of first-time, full-time freshmen who graduate within six years of entering their original four-year institution.

“There’s been consistent, small improvements over the years,” Lapchick said. “It’s directly attributable to the academic progress rates and sanctions that could be imposed if you don’t withstand it.”

Four-Team Playoff

This is the first college football season that will feature a four-team playoff at the top level of the sport. Alabama takes on Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and Florida State plays Oregon in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, with the championship taking place Jan. 12 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Alabama has the best GSR of final-four teams at 80 percent. Ohio State is next at 78 percent, followed by Oregon (70 percent) and Florida State (65 percent).

“It was a positive to see that all four teams that made it into the championship round have good academic records,” Lapchick said. “There’s no question that represents progress. There have been times when the teams that ended up in the very top bowls would have some of the lower graduation rates.”

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