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Posted on Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 12:08 p.m.

Michigan football team's graduation rate lags behind other sports, but performance at all-time high

By Kyle Meinke

The University of Michigan graduates its athletes at a better rate than all but two Big Ten schools, Northwestern and Penn State.

In 23 of 26 sports, the graduation rate meets or exceeds that of the general student body. The three exceptions, though, are not surprising.

Football, men's basketball and ice hockey are the stragglers, and the university is working to raise its figures in those sports. It appears to be working in football.


Under Brady Hoke, the Michigan football team has registered its best "academic performance" numbers in program history.

Angela J. Cesere |

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said last week the Wolverines registered the best "academic performance" in their history under first-year coach Brady Hoke last year. He didn't cite specific numbers.

Hoke said academic proficiency rose because of coaches doing class checks, holding players to a higher standard and enforcing consequences for falling short of that standard.

"The coaches do a good job. They'll meet once a week with (the players) academically, with what they need to do," Hoke said. "You have one of those guys who's focused, steady, on track, getting things done, and there's a lot of those guys.

"Then there's the 10 percent you've got to motivate a little bit more and guide. That's part of it. Steve Connelly and Shari (Acho) in academics have done a good job."

Hoke also has taken a hands-on approach to the academics of his players, dropping in on classes two or three times just in the past semester. One was a Department of Afroamerican and African Studies course, which offered a lecture on the impact of British marching music in the Caribbean.

Not exactly criminal justice, which Hoke studied at Ball State. And certainly not football.

What did he learn from his classroom experiences?

"I learned I'm glad I'm not a student," he said with a smile. "You observe, you listen, you observe the professor, you observe how your kids act, where they sit, all those things. See if they are doing what you have told them.

"I know how to get bad grades. I did that for two years -- I promise you that I had a lot of fun."

Brandon does his part, as well, during an annual address to the team.

He rattled off some stats to the players before the start of last season, noting Michigan had sent the fifth-most players into the NFL since its inception 88 years ago.

"I get up in front of our team and say, 'One of the reasons you are here is many of you want to play in the pros. And you now know you've come to one of the top-five places in the nation in terms of our proficiency of placing people into the NFL.' And they all get this big grin," Brandon said.

"I say, 'OK, I've calculated, because I'm a numbers guy, the last 88 years we've had more than 4,000 men come through this program. Slightly over 4,000. ... Of those 4,000-plus, how many do you think had an opportunity to play in the pros? What percent? Answer: 6.8 percent.

"'Another question for you: Of the 6.8 percent that had a chance to play in the NFL, what do you think the average length of their career was? Answer: 3.9 years, less than the four years you spend at the University of Michigan.'

"Then I look at them and say: 'Go to school, get a degree, listen to your tutors, listen to your academic counselors, and leave here with more than a dream to play football.

"'Because you know what? You're going to need it. You're going to need it.'"

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sat, Jun 16, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

So, whether Alabama, USC, ohio or Michigan what's the odds that they all bring these kids to the different schools for their prowess on the gridiron, not the classroom. It's the wealthy and intellects of America that brings football to everyone and that my friends is due to the great wealth it generates not the concern of the graduation rate. Get real this is America, there's them that have and............

Billy Bob Schwartz

Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 1:29 a.m.

Okay, SEC. Here it goes. Read carefully. The graduation rate so far stinks. However, the football team has improved its academic performance this year. What's the problem with having a poor graduation rate but being happy with the improved academic performance? In A2, we are allowed to make two points in the same article. It's not even really multitasking. It's just two parts in the explanation of the situation. I will repeat it: Grad rate stinx; academic performance is up; i.e., we have a problem, but look: we admit it and are doing a good job of fixing it. The end.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 1:30 p.m.

I managed to find the new article from a month ago based on 2011 graduation data. Here is that link... Michigan football's graduation rate in 2011 was 71% (down from 72% in 2010). Basketball improved from 36% (OUCH) in 2010 to 45% in 2011. Maybe Dave Brandon has an advance/psychic powers on 2012 graduation rates, but the NCAA's official data won't be released until next year. Also look up the info yourself at


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

No anger here, SEC Fan. I appreciate the list. Too many folks still like to drink the Kool-Aid when a "Michigan Man" makes a statement and not fact check it. Here's the link to how all the conferences fared... (Sparty NO!!!) One thing about the article and your list, though. It was written a year ago and it's based on 2010 Graduation Success Rates from the NCAA. Says so in the article... "Our analysis uses the "Graduation Success Rates" (GSRs) from the NCAA's 2010 graduation rate report." So Michigan's 72% rate in your list above should be for 2010, not 2011. Michigan might well have had a record grad rate in 2011, but the data hasn't been released (or analyzed) yet it seems.


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 11:38 a.m.

Look, Billy. I never made any comment regarding the graduation rates of Michigan or any other school. Ok...never made any type of assessment, comment or anything else. Sparky questioned the accuracy of Mr. Brandon's statement. All I did was list the graduation rates by year which show that 2011 was not the best that Michigan has had. Why is everyone so angry about my listing the rates? Seems to me, a few Michigan fans around here have some serious insecurity issues.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

Part of these numbers are misleading. It includes transfers, who obviously don't graduate (at original institution at least). I think the important numbers are looking at athletes who last 4 years in the program--whatever the sport. Those numbers would make more sense. Now, if you include those who transfer, you should look at their success at the follow up school and see if it is a school problem or a player problem. I am glad though that Hoke is preaching to these players to take advantage of the education opportunity being presented. They should hear this and act on it. Makes a big big difference in their future potentially.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 11:06 p.m.

Player problem=Ryan Mallett


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

Football brings the mother load of cash into UM Athletics, because of that the academic standards are lower to insure we have a winning program. I bet the field Hockey does much better academically.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

The Michigan Football graduation rate is very, very likely to improve under Brady Hoke in the future. I would be interested in how the SEC football teams have done. Seems quite a few players from Alabama left school early for the NFL last season. Yes, they are NFL-U. If that's all that matters, I hope those who leave early have very long careers in the NFL. Brady Hoke prepares his players for life beyond football and not all players on a major college roster will earn the right to play in the NFL.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 10:07 p.m.

No doubt the graduation rate of the SEC is lower...and honestly, i don't know where to get the data that explains it. But, if what you say is that bad? What's the point of a college degree? To get a job! (No...don't want to hear arguments that it's for personal's 2012).


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

That's the benefit of pushing players into a major of "General Studies"

Ted Bundy

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

SEC Fan- This isnt Tuscaloosa. Why are you trolling a newspaper web site about a Big Ten team?? Big Ten academics(regardless of major) > SEC academics(minus Vanderbilt)


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:28 p.m.

I think you are mistaken. When did I say that Poggi was not being recruited by 'Bama? you should re-read what I posted.

Ted Bundy

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:16 p.m.

And arent you the guy who didnt know that Bama was recruiting Poggi as a offensive lineman and were rambling about how Poggi would ride the bench for 4 years at Bama playing defense? Yes you are that guy.

Terry Star21

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:09 p.m.

SEC FAN..... get a grip on yourself. Read the articles before making yourself look so very bad. First, no one credited Brady Hoke with any graduation success that you claimed in a reply to my earlier comment. Coach Hokes' comments and mine were about academic improvement since he arrived; Hoke; "Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said last week the Wolverines registered the best "academic performance" in their history under first-year coach Brady Hoke last year. TerryStar21; " I believe Brady Hoke is the right person and treats his charges as education first and football (sports) afterward". MgoBlueForTiM.....DANGER: continuous beat down's by Michigan football may cause blindness...


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

and what do you mean by "no one credited Brady Hoke with any graduation success"? What exactly is meant by: "Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said last week the Wolverines registered the best "academic performance" in their history under first-year coach Brady Hoke last year. "


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:27 p.m.

Terry Star21: "Obviously coach Hokes arrival and his immediate impact on these young kids has helped them" oh. I'm sorry. I incorrectly thought that your post was in reference to the column. Silly me. You were just rambling in general.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 6:17 p.m.

Per The Bootleg (, Michigan's graduation rate in 2011 for football was 72%. which is not the best in Michigan's history. In 2008, it was 73%. last 6 years: 2006: 68% 2007: 71% 2008: 73% 2009: 70% 2010: 71% 2011: 72% Maybe Mr. Brandon defines "academic performance" as meaning something else besides graduation rates?


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 9:37 p.m.



Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 9:35 p.m.

@Pillowtalk. Absolutely! I don't disgree at all. It's just that the headline and theme of the column is about graduation rates. And that is why i ased the question because i nor anyone else) knows...the article doesn't address it. I listed the rates because other commenters raised the issue...that a similar claim was raised when richrod was in town. The response here somewhat amazes me...i never commented on or implied anything in regards to the rates! Graduation rates are affected by numerous things not related to academic performance; going pro, transferring due to lack of playing time, etc.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

There are other perfectly reasonable definitions. For example, aggregate team GPA could be considered a very reasonable definition to measure academic performance over a single year.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

huh? Are you implying the data above is inaccurate? what's the issue? Numerous people above commented on the accuracy of the Mr. Brandon's statement, even referencing that a similar occurrence happened in the past. I just gave what the data is...

Terry Star21

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:11 p.m.

It must be painful, to lag behind Michigan in ever single sad !


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:57 p.m.

As long as the kids are succeding in their classes, graduating, and please for pete's sake, choosing a major other than "general studies", that's progress in my book. There's nothing worse than seeing that when they show the starting offense/defense and show their class status and major than to see "general studies".


Thu, Jun 14, 2012 : 12:43 a.m.

Well...think about why the British were in the Caribbean. That might help... Art and Music are one of the best bridges into history.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 9:40 p.m.

Do you actually know the history of the general studies degree? It was conceived as a specialized degree to better prepare a student to pursue an advanced degree, not as a way to escape getting a valuable and marketable education. The problem is not the degree, but the classes that the student takes in its pursuit. The fact that one can get college credit for studying "impact of British marching music in the Caribbean" is the problem.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:29 p.m.

"Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said last week the Wolverines registered the best "academic performance" in their history under first-year coach Brady Hoke last year. He didn't cite specific numbers." Um, didn't RichRod make the same claim after someone in the athletic department told him that, only to later find out no one ever really checked it or something? Dave Brandon says he's "a numbers guy" and can cite all these statistics to the players about odds of playing in the pros and for how long. Yet when it comes to academic progress, he just makes the same claim RichRod did about it being the best ever and doesn't provide any numbers to support it. That makes me skeptical. I certainly hope the players do take his advice about graduating because they're "going to need it" seriously, though. It's great to dream of the NFL, but chances of making it are slim and having a fall back plan is always wise.


Mon, Jun 18, 2012 : 8:10 a.m.

The story goes like this: When Rich Rod took the Michigan job, he asked administration what the highest gpa ever attained by the football team was, and made it a team goal to beat it. He was given bad info, and after his first season he thought the team had achieved the goal. It was eventually brought to his attention that the information he was given about the highest team gpa was bad, AFTER he had made statements about the team achieving their goal.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 10:58 p.m.

You have to take Dave Brand's word for it, he's a Michigan Man after all.

Craig Lounsbury

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:33 p.m.

I too recall RichRod making similar claims that didn't seem to be substantiated at the time.

Terry Star21

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:11 p.m.

I am pleased to read this article and the effort to push education and graduation. I believe Brady Hoke is the right person and treats his charges as education first and football (sports afterward. You can read it into his talks with the recruits mom's and families. Obviously coach Hokes arrival and his immediate impact on these young kids has helped them - first feel better about themselves, want to please their parents and coach and then continue to improve themselves on America's best college football team. MgoBlueForTiM.....ohio and msu in the rear view mirror .....again.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 11:02 p.m.

The story doesn't mention if Hoke gives tickets to the professors....


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 10:02 p.m.

@unclefred. Totally agree.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 9:34 p.m.

SEC Fan - there are a lot of factors that effect graduation rates. For example there was a lot of attrition during the three years that preceded Hoke's arrival as head coach. That may have dropped the graduation rate during RichRod's time without having borderline academic performance by the football team. The main source of the uptick, may be students staying to complete their degree rather than leaving early.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Seriously, I mean no insult - but you hurt your credibility when you don't read past the 3rd paragraph of the article. Paragraphs 4 and 5 from the article: "Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said last week the Wolverines registered the best "academic performance" in their history under first-year coach Brady Hoke last year. He didn't cite specific numbers. Hoke said academic proficiency rose because of coaches doing class checks, holding players to a higher standard and enforcing consequences for falling short of that standard." So, who exactly is being credited with the "best academic performance in Wolverine history"?

Terry Star21

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

Really? Now, just where did you read Brady Hoke or myself credit him with graduation rates ? Seriously, and I mean no insult - but you hurt your credibility when you fabricate things......


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

Really? Now, I'm not saying he isn't committed to education; but to credit him with the record graduation rate is a bit of a stretch. To do so would mean that the first 3 years of the players' college careers were borderline and it was only through Coach Hoke's "immediate" impact that got them to graduate? If that's the case, then it would be logical to expect a 100% graduation rate for all players he recruits, as he would have 4-5 years to work his magic on them.


Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 4:55 p.m.

I wonder if DB suggests getting a meaningful degree. In my opinion just getting any degree is the major problem today's college grads have. "there are no jobs".......(for what I decided to get a degree in)

Terry Star21

Wed, Jun 13, 2012 : 5:17 p.m.

Com...I would hope so, and I'm reading more from the last recruiting class about these young kids opting and talking more about their education/degrees ...there will always be several 'any degree/no degree' kids, but I believe there is MUCH MORE emphasis now with Mr. Brandon and coach Hoke - you read it, you hear it and you can see it.