So, what do you do? Attempt to turn the conversation to one that highlights the academic achievements of University of Miami athletes. Good job. Unless you take it too far, and as Inside Higher Ed suggests, Donna Shalala has done just that.
"Nationally, the academic achievements of our student athletes are mentioned in the same breath and spirit as Notre Dame and Stanford,” Shalala said in the video. “This is because we are first and foremost an academic institution."
Here's the problem: by the standard metrics used to gauge athletes’ academic performance -- graduation rates, eligibility and retention, and the majors athletes choose to study -- Miami does not approach the other two universities, which are often held out as models of institutions that have meshed academic excellence with high-octane athletics.
Miami’s 2010 federal graduation rate for all its scholarship athletes was 67 percent -- meaning that 67 percent of athletes who enrolled in the four years from 2000 to 2003 had earned their degrees within six years. While the federal rate counts students who transfer as non-graduates, the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate – which the NCAA created to respond to institutions’ complaints about the federal rate – does not, so the latter is always more favorable. Miami’s 2010 GSR was 86 percent; the university points out that that is up from 77 percent in 2005, and that it since then has been consistently higher than the average Division I GSR.
Yet neither of those numbers places Miami anywhere close to Stanford or Notre Dame, which in 2010 tied as the universities with the highest federal graduation rate for athletes -- both graduated 91 percent of their athletes over all.Oh, and neither of those universities are facing NCAA punishment, either. Sorry, President Shalala, but you missed on this one.