Nevada Criticizes Report on Athlete's Graduation Rate

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Nevada officials have criticized reports that their men's basketball team had one of the worst graduation rates of any team in the NCAA tournament's "Sweet Sixteen."

The Nevada team's graduation rate - 20 percent - ranked 15th among the final 16 teams in the tournament, according to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Stories based on the report were published in several newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Chris Exline, Nevada's faculty athletics representative, said he thinks the reports were misleading.

The data is based on statistics from 1992 to 1996 when the team was coached by Lenny Stevens and Pat Foster and has no bearing on the current team, which has been coached by Trent Johnson the last five years, Exline said.

"Those numbers are not very strong," he said of the 1992-96 data.

Because graduation rates for athletes are computed every six years, rates for Johnson's tenure will not be completed until 2006, Exline said.

Johnson, who led Nevada to its first Western Athletic Conference title and its first victories in the NCAA tournament, said three players have graduated since he became coach for the 1999-2000 season.

Three others remain in school and are on target to receive degrees, he said.

Four other players who were recruited by Johnson have transferred to other colleges and two are nearing completion of work to earn a degree.

Johnson, who recently signed a new five-year contract that will pay him $450,000 a year, said he was upset with the reports of Nevada's graduation rates.

"I struggle when something is printed that is not the truth," he told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

"We are doing everything we can as a staff to represent this institution and are committed to make sure our kids are held socially, academically and athletically accountable," Johnson said.

The NCAA is moving toward a concept of banning teams with poor graduation rates from postseason play.

But the association has rejected a recommendation from a reform-minded commission that the benchmark simply be a 50 percent player graduation rate.

NCAA President Myles Brand said the proposal would fail to take into account the different missions and standards of universities.

The NCAA's new system of measuring an athlete's academic success should be based on retention and not graduation rates, said Chris Ault, Nevada's interim athletic director.

"The system now is flawed," he said.

Nevada defeated Michigan State and Gonzaga before being eliminated from the NCAA tournament by Georgia Tech.