A report published by New America Foundation noted the low graduation rates of many football teams listed in the 2008 final regular season Bowl Championship Series (BCS) rankings. The Foundation’s “Higher Ed Watch” noted that the two football teams competing in the national championship, the University of Florida and the University of Oklahoma, are not the only elite football schools which have a low percentage of graduating their players. Of the top five teams Florida had the lowest graduation rate of 36 percent, while Oregon had the lowest Academic Progress Rate (APR), an NCAA measure of each sports teams’ progress toward graduating its players. Notably, Oregon also had a 41 percent disparity between the graduation rates of its white and black players–far and away the largest gap of the polled teams. The report also stated that only 55 percent of Division I-A football players leave college in six years with a degree.
Higher Ed Watch’s Academic BCS formula uses all of the available public data on the academic performance of football players to compile its own ranking of the nation’s college teams. The Higher Ed Watch formula starts with the team’s most recent federal graduation rate, which includes four classes of players who entered college between 1998 and 2001 and graduated within six years of initial enrollment. Then, each team gains or loses points based on (A) the gap between the team’s graduation rate and the overall school’s graduation rate and (B) the gap between the team’s black-white player graduation rates and the overall school’s disparity. Finally, the team gains or loses points if its Academic Progress Rate exceeds or falls below the Division I-Football Bowl Subdivision median.