Can't argue with Johnson's grad success


Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has become a polarizing figure among fans. Many have shared their frustrations about the triple option, about recruiting, about average results.

But there is no quibbling with one important aspect of his job: Johnson has helped his players succeed in the classroom. This past weekend, former defensive tackle T.J. Barnes walked across the stage and graduated with 12 other current or former Georgia Tech football players. His decision to come back to school and earn his degree gave the Class of 2008 -- the first one Johnson signed -- a perfect graduation record among the 15 players who stayed four or more years.

That is nothing to sneeze at, not when you consider how much Georgia Tech football has improved its graduation success since Johnson came aboard. In 2006-07, Georgia Tech registered a graduation success rate of 51. In 2012-13, that number went up to 63. Then there is the academic progress rate the NCAA began measuring in 2003-04. That number has improved in every year under Johnson.

This past year, Georgia Tech earned a public recognition award from the NCAA for finishing in the top 10 percent among all FBS programs in APR. The Jackets had a score of 983 and made the top 10 percent nationally for the first time since the APR started. The APR provides a real-time look at a team's academic success each semester or quarter by tracking the academic progress of each student-athlete. The GSR was created to show the proportion of student-athletes on any given team who earn a college degree, and it takes transfers into account.

No matter how you measure it, the numbers have improved. Even more impressive: Players are coming back to school to earn their degrees. In addition to Barnes, Gary Guyton and Joshua Nesbitt also returned to school after their playing careers were completed, and they graduated this past weekend, too. Guyton did not play for Johnson; Nesbitt was Johnson's quarterback from 2008-10.

At least five other former Georgia Tech football players were either enrolled in school this spring or will be this summer -- Izaan Cross, Keyaron Fox, Mike Cox, Will Heller and Vance Walker. The Georgia Tech Athletic Association, the NFL and NCAA have all pitched in to help some of the former players go back to school.

And by the way, the NCAA will release its newest winners of the APR public recognition awards next month.