Members of the Badgers men’s team watch a game from the locker room after practice during the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison men’s basketball team are taking on Notre Dame Friday night in the team’s fifth appearance in the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen in six years. But the Badgers’ success on the court isn’t always matched with success in the classroom.
The latest NCAA’s Graduation Success Rates report show 67 percent of Wisconsin’s men’s basketball players receive a degree within six years.
However, unlike the federal graduation rate calculations, the NCAA’s formula generously omits athletes in good academic standing who leave school for any reason, according to Ridhard Southall, director of the University of South Carolina’s College Sports Research Institute.
“Consistently, the graduation success rate returns a score that’s somewhere between 10 to 25 percentage points higher,” he said.
The basketball team’s graduation rate based on federal data was 57 percent last year. That’s compared to 83 percent for all male UW-Madison undergraduate students.
Southall isn’t surprised by the disparity.
“You can’t focus on academics when you are playing a professional schedule,” he said. “How many basketball games do these schools play now? Days of the week, cross country travel. Where is Wisconsin playing in the NCAA Tournament, how long are they there?”
UW-Green Bay’s men’s and women’s basketball teams made it to the first rounds of this year’s NCAA tournaments. Those teams play in less competitive conferences and have higher graduation rates for players than the overall student body. UW-Green Bay’s men’s team has a graduation rate of 55 percent based on federal data, compared to 47 percent for all male students. The UW-Green Bay women’s team has a graduation rate of 77 percent, compared to 53 percent for female students overall.
UW-Madison’s athletics department hasn’t responded to interview requests.