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Notre Dame wins in grad rates

– Last year’s national runner-ups in football and men’s basketball came out the big winners in the classroom.

Of the 10 teams that reached the BCS football championship game and the men’s and women’s Final Four, only one finished with a graduation rate lower than 70 percent in the NCAA’s latest report, with Notre Dame producing better academic marks than national champion Alabama and Michigan coming in slightly ahead of national champion Louisville.

Those marks are based on four years of data collected from freshman athletes who entered school between 2003-04 and 2006-07 and earned their degrees in six years.

Eighty-two percent of athletes in the 2006-07 freshman class earned their diploma, matching a one-year record. Graduation rates over the four-year span, hit 81 percent, also a 1 percentage point increase and another record.

Indiana increased its GSR by 2 percentage points over that time frame and graduated 82 percent of its athletes. IU graduated all of its participants in five sports: women’s golf, women’s soccer, women’s swimming and diving, women’s tennis and men’s golf.

Purdue’s GSR of 80 percent fell shy of the national average, but according to a department release should eliminate the gap in the next year. Men’s and women’s tennis and volleyball graduated all their participants.

The one-year measuring stick among black female athletes improved from 76 percent in 2005-06 to 78 percent in 2006-07.

And players in the Football Bowl Subdivision topped last year’s record-high of 70 percent by hitting 71 percent thanks to a 4 percentage point jump, to 84 percent, among white FBS players and 2 percentage point jump, to 64 percent, among black players.

Alabama, which has won the last two BCS titles and is ranked No. 1 this season, finished at 73 percent, ahead of football’s four-year average (70 percent). Notre Dame, which lost in January’s BCS title game, had a grad rate of 94 percent.

There were similar trends in basketball.

Michigan, the men’s runner-up, and Wichita State both came in at 75 percent, both ahead of the four-year average in their sport (70). National champion Louisville was third at 70 percent, and only Syracuse (45) fell below the national average.

Three of the four women’s Final Four teams also topped the spot’s four-year average (85). Notre Dame came in at 100 percent with Connecticut and Louisville both at 92. California’s grad rate was 75 percent.

The Notre Dame men’s basketball team also had a 100 percent graduation rate.

Tony Krausz and Sean Morrison of The Journal Gazette contributed to this story.

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