While both schools' athletes contend for honors on the athletic fields, it appears that the University of Toledo and Bowling Green State University are also doing a better job in the classroom than most of their peers around the country, and outperforming the general student body at both institutions.
In the most recent survey of college athletes conducted by the NCAA, the graduation rate for UT student-athletes was 69 percent, seven points above the national average of 62 percent. Bowling Green's graduation rate for the same class was also 69 percent.
"This is great news and a real tribute to the hard work of our student-athletes, coaches and administrative staff," Toledo athletic director Mike O'Brien said. "We consider the graduation of our student-athletes to be central to our mission, so it is gratifying to see such positive results."
The numbers are for the 1997-98 recruiting class only. The NCAA tracks athletes, giving them six years to complete work on their degree, and also compiles numbers on the average graduation rate over the most recent four-year period leading up to and including that 1997-98 class.
The NCAA also released numbers looking at a larger sample, the 10-year period from 1988-98. In that survey, Bowling Green led the Mid-American Conference with a 93 percent graduation rate for all of its student-athletes, while Toledo posted an 82 percent graduation rate for its athletes over the same period. Marshall had the lowest 10-year graduation rate in the MAC at 56 percent.
"I am very proud that our scholarship athletes recognized the opportunity they had and took advantage of it," Bowling Green athletic director Paul
Krebs said. "Historically, the entire academic community at BGSU and our department have worked well to help young men and women juggle the demands of obtaining a quality education and competing at the Division I level."
The NCAA also contrasts student-athlete graduation rates with those of the general student body at each school. UT's graduation rate of 69 percent for student-athletes was 27 points higher than that of the UT general student population rate of 42 percent for the same time period. Bowling Green's total student population had a graduation rate of 65 percent for the period.
In the football-only numbers, the MAC as a whole did very well in the latest reporting period, leading all Division I-A leagues in the country. Six of the MAC's 14 schools had graduation rates of 70 percent or better for their student athletes.
Toledo's graduation rate for the football recruiting class of 1997-98 was 71 percent, while Bowling Green's was 63 percent for the same year. The national average for football players in that class was 57 percent. Ball State led the MAC and was fifth nationally at 88 percent.
The MAC was also very strong in the four-class average numbers. Among the 96 Division I-A public institutions in the survey, 18 schools had four-year football graduation rates above 60 percent, and four of them come from the MAC.
Ball State was the top public university in the four-year survey with a 78 percent football graduation rate. Western Michigan (68), Toledo (62) and Central Michigan (60) were in the top group, while Bowling Green had a 50 percent graduation rate in that four-year period. A total of 49 public I-A institutions (51) graduated 50 percent or more of their football student-athletes from the last four classes.
According to the federally mandated NCAA report, the 62 percent graduation rate for all NCAA student-athletes who entered Division I colleges and universities in 1997 is unchanged from the 2003 figures. The six-year graduation rate for the overall student body grew one percentage point, to 60 percent, from the previous year.
The overall numbers for Division I-A football athletes improved for the fourth consecutive year. Division I-A football student-athletes who entered school in 1997-98 completed the six-year cycle with a 57 percent graduation rate, compared to 54 percent for the previous class.
UT's overall student graduation rate, which typically ranges between 40 to 44 percent, is calculated on a 6-year period and focuses on first-time, full-time students who are seeking bachelor's degrees.
According to John Nutter, director of institutional research at UT, the figure includes students who drop out of the university during the period. UT also is an open admissions university versus one with selective enrollment.