Dec. 2, 2009

By virtually any measurement, the University of Notre Dame wins the 2009 national championship for graduating its student-athletes.

Whether measured by the federal government in its Department of Education report or by the NCAA through its Graduation Success Rate (GSR) numbers, graduation rates for Notre Dame student-athletes rank either number one or among the handful of national leaders in all major categories among all major football-playing colleges and universities.

Notre Dame’s institutional research found that Irish student-athletes ranked number one in eight of 10 major categories – ranking second in one and third in another. Those are far and away the best results for Notre Dame in the five years the NCAA has published both the GSR and federal numbers. The eight number-one rankings are four more than ever achieved in any other year (the four top rankings came in 2008).

Notre Dame led the nation in the GSR ratings for all student-athletes (at 99), while also ranking first in both the GSR and federal standings for male student-athletes (98 GSR, 88 federal), female student-athletes (100 GSR, 94 federal) and black student-athletes (97 GSR, 85 federal) — as well as first in the GSR listing for football student-athletes (96).

Both the federal graduation-rate figures and the GSR numbers for Notre Dame student-athletes rated the Irish in five major categories among the 120 football-playing institutions in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A).

The federally mandated NCAA Graduation-Rates Report, the 19th such survey issued by the association, covers students who enrolled between 1999 and 2002 at all Division I institutions. The federal graduation rates are based on the raw percentage of student-athletes who entered an institution and graduated within six years. Students who leave or transfer, regardless of academic standing, are considered non-graduates. All those receiving athletics aid are included in the statistics. All military academies are exempt from the federal survey because they do not offer grants-in-aid to student-athletes. The GSR was created to more accurately reflect actual graduation rates by including transfer data in the calculation. College and university presidents asked the NCAA to develop a new methodology that takes into account the mobility among students in today’s higher education environment. Research indicates that approximately 60 percent of all new bachelor’s degree recipients are attending more than one undergraduate institution during their collegiate careers.

In calculations listing all student-athletes in all sports, Notre Dame ranked first among the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools in the GSR figures, which were initiated in 2005 by the NCAA. The University’s 99 percent GSR for all its student-athletes ranked just ahead of the 98 figure for the U.S. Naval Academy. Using the federal formula, Notre Dame graduated a four-year average of 90 percent of its student-athletes, just behind Stanford at 91 percent.

Notre Dame graduated 94 percent of all women competing in varsity athletics, to rank first among its peer institutions based on the federal calculations (just ahead of Stanford, Northwestern and Rice at 93). Among men, Notre Dame’s 88 percent federal rate also was first, tied with Stanford. Notre Dame graduated 85 percent of its black student-athletes, ranking first nationally based on the federal rate, and Irish football players graduated at a 85 percent rate, to rank third.

In the GSR standings, the Irish scored a sweep. In addition to its number-one ranking for all student-athletes, Notre Dame finished tied for first among female student athletes at 100 (the U.S. Naval Academy also finished at 100), first among male student-athletes at 98 percent (ahead of the Naval Academy and Duke at 97), first among football players at 96 percent (tied with Duke), and first among black student-athletes at 97 percent (ahead of the Naval Academy and Vanderbilt at 93).

The NCAA also calculated graduation rates over a 10-year period (student-athletes who entered from 1993-94 through 2002-2003). During those 10 years, Notre Dame had 635 student-athletes who exhausted their eligibility – and 100 percent of them graduated within the allotted six-year period. By comparison, Northwestern had a 100 percent rate, Vanderbilt, Duke and Boston College recorded 99 percent, and Rice had a 98 percent rate.

2009 NCAA Graduation RatesAll data for student-athletes who enrolled between 1999 and 2002 (numbers are percentages)

All Student-Athletes
Federal Rate
1. Stanford, 91
2. Notre Dame, 90
3. (tie) Duke, Northwestern, 88
5. Boston College, 86
6. Penn State, 82
7. (tie) Vanderbilt, Miami (Ohio), 80
9. Rice, 79
10. (tie) Wake Forest, SMU, 77

1. Notre Dame, 99
2. U.S. Naval Academy, 98
3. (tie) Northwestern, Duke, 97
5. Boston College, 96
6. (tie) Stanford, Vanderbilt, 94
8. (tie) Rice, Wake Forest, 93
10. U.S. Military Academy, 92

Male Student-Athletes
Federal Rate
1. (tie) Notre Dame, Stanford, 88
3. Duke, 85
4. Northwestern, 84
5. Boston College, 80
6. Vanderbilt, 79
7. Penn State, 76
8. (tie) SMU, Miami (Ohio), 74
10. Rice, 71

1. Notre Dame, 98
2. (tie) U.S. Naval Academy, Duke, 97
4. Northwestern, 95
5. Boston College, 94
6. (tie) Stanford, Vanderbilt, 92
8. U.S. Military Academy, 91
9. Rice, 90
10. (tie) U.S. Air Force Academy, Wake Forest, 89

Female Student-Athletes
Federal Rate
1. Notre Dame, 94
2. (tie) Northwestern, Rice, Stanford, 93
5. (tie) Duke, Wake Forest, 92
7. (tie) Penn State, Boston College, 91
9. Miami (Ohio), 87
10. (tie) Michigan, Vanderbilt, North Carolina, Tulane, 86

1. (tie) Notre Dame, U.S. Naval Academy, 100
3. (tie) Northwestern, Duke, Wake Forest, Boston College, 99
7. (tie) Rice, Bowling Green, 98
9. Illinois, 97
10. (tie) Penn State, Stanford, Vanderbilt, SMU, 96

Black Student-Athletes
Federal Rate
1. Notre Dame, 85
2. Vanderbilt, 81
3. Northwestern, 79
4. (tie) Stanford, Duke, Penn State, 78
7. (tie) Wake Forest, Rice, 76
9. Boston College, 74
10. SMU, 73

1. Notre Dame, 97
2. (tie) U.S. Naval Academy, Vanderbilt, 93
4. (tie) Northwestern, Duke, 92
6. Boston College, 88
7. Wake Forest, 86
8. (tie) Rice, Rutgers, 83
10. (tie) U.S. Air Force Academy, Stanford, Penn State, 82

Football Student-Athletes
Federal Rate
1. Duke, 89
2. Boston College, 86
3. (tie) Notre Dame, Stanford, 85
5. Northwestern, 81
6. Penn State, 80
7. Vanderbilt, 78
8. (tie) Rice, SMU, 73
10. Cincinnati, 71

1. (tie) Notre Dame, Duke, 96
3. U.S. Naval Academy, 93
4. Northwestern, 92
5. (tie) Boston College, Vanderbilt, 91
7. Stanford, 89
8. U.S. Air Force Academy, 87
9. U.S. Military Academy, 86
10 (tie) Miami (Ohio), Penn State 85

Since the NCAA first published GSR numbers in 2005, here are the trends for Notre Dame in all 10 categories over the five years of graduation rates (includes ranking and raw graduation percentage; SA stands for student-athletes):

Category 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009
All SAs Fed. 1st at 90 2nd at 89 3rd at 89 2nd at 89 2nd at 90
GSR 2nd at 98 2nd at 98 1st at 98 1st at 98 1st at 99
Male SAs Fed. 1st at 87 1st at 87 3rd at 85 2nd at 87 1st at 88
GSR 2nd at 98 2nd at 97 2nd at 97 2nd at 97 1st at 98
Female SAs Fed. 1st at 96 2nd at 94 1st at 94 1st at 93 1st at 94
GSR 5th at 99 2nd at 99 1st at 100 1st at 100 1st at 100
Black SAs Fed. 6th at 78 6th at 84 8th at 75 1st at 84 1st at 85
GSR 6th at 93 3rd at 95 4th at 91 2nd at 96 1st at 97
Football SAs Fed. 4th at 85 6th at 84 6th at 79 4th at 85 3rd at 85
GSR 2nd at 96 3rd at 95 3rd at 93 2nd at 94 1st at 96

Over the five years worth of numbers of both the federal rates and the GSR, Notre Dame had 50 possible rankings in the five categories (among the FBS institutions) and 19 times ranked first, 15 times ranked second and six times ranked third.