Thursday, October 16, 2008

On graduation rates and meaning

Of all the measurements of a basketball program's success, where should we rank "graduation rates?" Is it relevant? Important? If Chris Wilcox is making $8 million a year in the NBA, but never graduated, does it matter? Obviously Wilcox is an extreme example, but worth mentioning to put in context the dismal results of graduation rates from the Maryland program that came out this week.

It was revealed that a year after posting a big fat zero, the Maryland program improved to a 10 percent graduation rate among freshman entering the program from 1998-99 to 2001-2002. These players enjoyed the most successful and acclaimed era in Maryland basketball history, yet they weren't much on the student part of student athlete. All of this leaves me wondering, "does it matter?"

Even the most supportive advocate of collegiate sports at the highest level acknowledges the hypocrisy and conflict of interests involved. Every ACC basketball player on scholarship likely expects his career to be "basketball," for the next 10-15 years, realistic or not. And these players are celebrities on campus, given special treatment, and live a life that is so different than the average college experience that it's laughable. Think of it this way, if you had a game at Duke or Florida State or Clemson on ESPN at 9 p.m. on a Tuesday, how focused would you be for your sociology test on Thursday?

All of this is not to say that it's acceptable to just not graduate ANY players. That's pathetic and embarrassing. So is 10 percent and Gary should be called on it. The Athletic Department has already spun the data, saying it is not an accurate portrayal of the current state of affairs, but last I checked the same coach was in charge when the players covered in the current report entered and left College Park. We can't leave all the blame at Gary's feet. Players are given tutors and scheduling accommodations in order to counterbalance their in-season time commitments. As many have said, the players have to want to graduate.

But, and this is where I have a major problem with Gary, there also must be a culture where graduation is an expectation, not a rarely achieved "nice to have" reach goal.

If you don't think it's a big deal, imagine how much fun you'd have at the expense of Duke if it came out that Coach K's lauded program was graduating zero or 10 percent of its players. Think that will ever happen?

As a longtime fan of Maryland basketball, I am conflicted. I find it embarrassing that the school can't graduate players, but have a hard time calling guys like Juan Dixon, Wilcox, Drew Nicholas, Lonny Baxter, and Terence Morris -- all of whom are making big money playing in the NBA or overseas -- "unsuccessful." Clearly they are making it in their chosen career path, which is basketball.

And if Maryland and other so-called big-time programs exist to prepare men for life and their careers, then you would have to say they are preparing these and other players well. But that leaves the farce of their classroom education to be reconciled.

Or maybe not. Maybe it's enough for a player with professional basketball talent to put in some classroom and campus time to become a more well rounded and educated individual, and the ceremony of graduation is just that. Maybe it just doesn't matter.

The good news, I suppose, is that the numbers will improve over time. The program has already made a show of pointing out that D.J. Strawberry, James McAlpin, Boom Osby, and James Gist all earned degrees, so zero percent won't rear its ugly ahead in the near future.

It's a step in the right direction, but when you're DFL in graduation rates, the only place to go is up.

Here's discussion on the issue from the Post and Sun if you're interested.

If you read this far, please take a moment to vote in the poll on the right on the topic, it will be interesting to understand how fans feel on the issue.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Finally on, an updated roster

I noticed on Maryland's official sports website,, that they just recently updated the men's basketball roster to reflect the team that will take the court this season. For a long time, they had last year's roster up there, likely because this year's roster was not finalized; and perhaps because last year's basketball SID left Maryland to become the sports information director for the Southern Conference. 10 bonus points if you can name one school in the Southern Conference.

Got one?

Your best bet, and probably a top 25 team, is Davidson, of Stephen Curry fame.

Anway, Maryland's roster this season looks like this:

22Adrian BowieGuard6-2190SO-HSGreenbelt, Md. (Montrose Christian)
32Jerome BurneyForward6-9222SO-HSAtlanta, Ga. (Westlake)
4Braxton DupreeCenter6-8260SO-HSBaltimore, Md. (Calvert Hall)
25Steve GoinsCenter6-10260FR-HSChicago, Ill. (Curie HS)
33Dino GregoryForward6-7227SO-HSBaltimore, Md. (Mount St. Joseph)
5Eric HayesGuard6-4184JR-1VWoodbridge, Va. (Potomac)

Jin Soo Kim*Forward6-7180FR-HSSouth Kent, Conn. (South Kent HS)
1Landon MilbourneForward6-7207JR-1VRoswell, Ga. (Oak Hill Academy)
14Sean MosleyGuard6-4210FR-HSBaltimore, Md. (St. Frances Academy)
35Dave NealForward6-7263SR-2VMcLean, Va. (Bishop O'Connell)
23David PearmanGuard/Forward6-6188SO-HSColumbia, Md. (Oakland Mills)
24Cliff TuckerGuard/Forward6-6190SO-HSEl Paso, Texas (Chapin)
21Greivis VasquezGuard6-6190JR-1VCaracas, Venezuela (Montrose Christian)
The newest name is Steve Goins, the 6-10 freshman center from Chicago, who will hopefully shore up an otherwise small and unaccomplished front line of Dave Neal, Dino Gregory, Braxton Dupree and probably our best hope, Jerome Burney.

I really hope Gary does something a little different this year and goes with a smaller, running lineup to take advantage of the weapons he does have, wouldn't it be fun to see a starting lineup of Vasquez, Cliff Tucker, Landon Milbourne, Sean Mosley, and Burney? You might swap Eric Hayes for the freshman Mosley, or Dupree for Milbourne or Tucker to get more size up front, but something tells me "innovative" will need to be a word to describe Gary's approach this year.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Maryland Basketball Team Shares spotlight with Gymkana

Just passing along a press release from the Maryland sports info dept:


Free tickets available to annual Terrapin basketball showcase

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – The 2008 version of Maryland Madness hits the Comcast Center on Friday, Oct. 17, with doors opening at 6 p.m.

Free tickets are available to fans on a first-come, first-served basis. Call the Terrapin Ticket Office at 1-800-IM-A-TERP to reserve seats.

The introduction of both the University of Maryland men’s and women’s basketball teams will highlight the evening. The annual dramatic entrance onto the floor by men’s head coach Gary Williams will again be one of the special moments of a great evening.

Among the numerous activities planned for this year’s Maryland Madness are games, giveaways and activities for fans and students. Students arriving early will receive a T-shirt, courtesy of Pepsi. The spirit squad, dance team and the Maryland Gymkana Troupe are scheduled to perform.

Following the performances, the women’s basketball team will be introduced to the crowd, including comments by head coach Brenda Frese prior to the women’s scrimmage. The men’s team, including Williams, will be introduced to the crowd following the women’s scrimmage.

The University of Maryland Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will again sponsor a canned food drive for the event. Fans are encouraged to donate items to the Capital Area Food Bank. Drop locations will be situated inside the Comcast Center entrances, manned by members of Maryland student-athletes.