Athlete graduation rate up, football down

LOS ANGELES -- Across the board, USC's student-athlete graduation rate has continued to go up, according to updated figures released Thursday by the NCAA.

The overall rate of 79 percent is just under the national rate of 80 for student-athletes entering college in the fall of 2005. It represents a significant improvement from the 66-percent rate the school had the seven previous years.

But the Trojans' football player graduation rate went down for the same class, from 61 percent to 57 percent. The football mark has hovered between 54 percent and 61 percent for the last eight years, with a four-year mark of 57 percent.

Of the football teams ranked ahead of USC in the current Associated Press Top 25, only Oklahoma (47 percent) posted a lower four-year rate. No. 5 Notre Dame graduated 97 percent of its athletes, and No. 1 Alabama graduated 75 percent.

USC's mark ranked ninth in the Pac-12. The men's basketball rate of 43 percent -- an improvement on last year's 38 -- was last in the conference.

Five USC sports -- men's and women's tennis, men's golf, women's volleyball and women's water polo -- boasted a 100-percent graduation rate.

Baseball notably improved from 60 to 71 percent. The sport's graduation rate has nearly doubled over the past five years, with a 36 percent mark for the entering class of 2001.

It's worth noting that the graduation rate doesn't reflect any current student-athletes.