By Jeff Commings
PHOENIX, Arizona, October 25. WHEN Brian Barnes hits the recruiting trail, he makes sure to emphasize one particular aspect of his women’s swimming team at Notre Dame: Each student-athlete has a diploma in their hands at the end of their college careers.
“I always tell them (recruits) that their chances of graduating at Notre Dame are very good, and I can back it up with facts,” said Barnes, the head coach of women’s team.
The NCAA released a list of graduation rates for all universities and all sports in Division I and Division II on Thursday, and the Fighting Irish women’s swim team is one of 90 Division I swimming and diving teams that posted a perfect graduation rate in 2013. Notre Dame is one of 18 Division I schools to boast that statistic for both its men’s and women’s teams.
In Division II, the NCAA uses the term “Academic Success Rate” for the same statistic, and 26 swimming and diving teams had ASRs of 100 percent. Four schools are celebrating that statistic for both men’s and women’s swimming and diving.
The NCAA’s new report on the Graduation Success Rate indicates that 82 percent of student-athletes who entered a Division I college in 2006 earned a degree within six years, an increase of 8 percent since the report was first published in 2001 and 1 percent higher than last year’s report. The report was created to help track student-athletes as they enter a university and how well schools are guiding them to diplomas. A school’s GSR takes into account mid-year enrollees and transfer students in addition to those who stay at one school for their entire college life.
The majority of swimming and diving teams in Division I had GSRs higher than the national average. In men’s swimming, 93 out of 135 schools listed on the report were better than the national average, while 161 of 195 women’s teams beat the national average.
A look at the GSR numbers for the top 10 schools at last spring’s NCAA Division I swimming and diving championships shows that each of the top 10 schools at the women’s meet equaled or surpassed the national average of 82 percent, while seven out of 10 beat that average in men’s swimming and diving. Florida (71 percent GSR), Arizona (74 percent) and Auburn (74 percent) fell below the average, with Florida dropping 9 percent from last year, Arizona falling 5 percent and Auburn growing its GSR by 7 percent in one year.
Of the 18 schools with perfect GSRs for men’s and women’s swimming and diving, Stanford has the highest notoriety with numerous NCAA champions and Olympians in its storied legacy. Ted Knapp has coached at Stanford for 30 years, and says the goal of getting every swimmer to graduate comes mostly from the athletes.
“Our (Graduation Success Rate) stems from the athletes’ level of expectation and the people they surround themselves with, as well as having the services and support systems available as needed,” he said.
Stanford can also celebrate the fact that it’s the only school among the top 10 swimming and diving teams from last season that posted a perfect graduation rate on either the men’s or women’s lists. A few others, such as UC-Berkeley’s women’s team and Michigan’s men’s team, have GSR numbers in the 90-percent range.
Perhaps not surprisingly is the news that the GSR report shows that student-athletes have consistently had higher graduation rates than their non-athlete counterparts at the same university. At Notre Dame, where the swimming and diving graduation rate has been 100 percent for at least the past four years, the campus-wide graduation rate is only 96 percent.
As with nearly every college coach, Barnes has plenty to worry about each day. But he rarely has to wonder if his athletes are putting in the work in the classroom.
“I’ve never had a year at Notre Dame where I’ve been hesitant about their graduation, as well as their success in getting a job,” he said. “When you get that degree from Notre Dame, you’re sought after.”
Division I swimming and diving men’s programs with 100 percent Graduation Success Rates:
Alabama, American, Boston College, Boston University, Brown, Bucknell, California Polytechnic State, Centenary College, Colgate, Dartmouth, Drexel, Duke, Fairfield, Gardner-Webb, Georgetown, Holy Cross, Lafayette, Lehigh, Louisville, Loyola (Maryland), Maine-Orono, Miami (Florida), Nevada-Las Vegas, Notre Dame, Old Dominion, Princeton, Providence, Stanford, Wisconsin, Xavier, Yale
Division I swimming and diving women’s programs with 100 percent Graduation Success Rates:
American, Boston College, Boston University, Bryant, Bucknell, SUNY-Buffalo, Butler, California Polytechnic State, Campbell, Central Connecticut State, Clemson, Colgate, Cornell, Dartmouth, Davidson, Duke, Duquesne, George Mason, George Washington, Georgetown, Georgia Tech, Harvard, Holy Cross, Indiana, Iona, Iowa State, James Madison, La Salle, Lafayette, Lehigh, Liberty, Maine-Orono, Marist, Marshall, Miami (Florida), Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Northern Colorado, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Pacific, Princeton, Rhode Island, St. Francis (Pa.), UC-San Diego, Seton Hall, Siena College, South Dakota State, Stanford, U.S. Military Academy, Villanova, Virginia Military Institute, Virginia Polytechnic, Wagner, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Xavier, Yale
Division II swimming and diving men’s programs with 100 percent Academic Success Rates:
Adelphi, Bridgeport, Fresno Pacific, Incarnate Word, Mars Hill, Pace, Rollins, St. Michael’s, Simon Fraser, West Virginia Wesleyan
Division II swimming and diving women’s programs with 100 percent Academic Success Rates:
Adelphi, Assumption, Bartley, UC-San Diego, Colorado School of Mines, Edinboro (Pa.), Grand Valley State, Hillsdale, Indianapolis, Lenoir-Rhyne, LIU-Post, Mars Hill, Rollins, Simon Fraser, Truman State, Wheeling
Division I and Division II academic reports