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Sandy Barbour Letter on Graduation Rates
Courtesy: Cal Athletics  
Release:  10/29/2013

Dear Friend of Cal Athletics:

By now, you have most likely seen or heard about our Graduation Success Rate (GSR) numbers published by the NCAA last week. While the majority of our teams and student-athletes produced exceptional results, two of our programs fell short of our standards and expectations. Before I describe all that we are and will be doing to address this issue, I want to provide a few more details about the data.

Specifically, our football team had a GSR of 44 percent and our men’s basketball team was at 38 percent. Ultimately, I am accountable for these results, and it is my responsibility to identify and address short-comings that have contributed to this unacceptable level of academic achievement. With that said, since evidence surfaced of declining academic results for these two teams, we have been far from complacent. We have already begun to see the results of recent corrective actions that should produce higher scores in the coming years. And it’s not just about numbers. What we are really talking about is the extent to which we are recruiting and fully supporting the kind of young men and women who are ready, able and motivated to take advantage of the educational opportunities offered by this university.

It is important to understand that the recent GSR figures do not suggest that our student-athletes are failing in their classwork; rather they are often choosing to pursue other interests, such as a professional athletic career, before meeting their academic requirements to graduate. All of us understand the value of a Berkeley degree, and it is up to us to establish the expectation and the culture that encourages our student-athletes to graduate.

The latest GSR data is based on freshmen who entered school between 2003-06. Given this lag in reporting, we were able to identify factors contributing to the decline in academic performance well before the data was released. As a result, it was two years ago that we began a concerted effort to address the issue through a number of measures designed to reverse what was a disturbing trend, particularly within our football program. Among the steps already initiated are:

  • holding monthly meetings with athletic department leadership, the faculty athletic representative, academic advisors and the head coach to review the team's academic improvement plan to understand and manage problems before they arise;
  • encouraging players to take more challenging classes earlier in their careers to avoid the distractions that can come in a final season that can keep them from finishing their degrees;
  • a heightened focus on recruiting prospects who are motivated and prepared to succeed academically and athletically at Cal;
  • the hiring of an additional academic specialist for football, bringing that total to five full time personnel;
  • establishing policies for student-athletes in their final semester that they must graduate or leave school in good academic standing in order to continue to train at the Simpson Center or in Memorial Stadium.

Critical to this effort is the commitment from our coaching staff. From the first day Coach Dykes set foot on campus, he established standards of accountability for classroom performance. With a combination of these new expectations and our recent actions, we have seen 24 players graduate over the last year, and the team’s term GPA for the spring semester was its highest in five years and the GPA for the summer session was its highest in 10 years.

Similarly, Coach Montgomery has a long history of emphasizing the importance of academics throughout his career, and of the six seniors on the men’s basketball team the past three seasons, five have graduated and a sixth is taking one class this semester to earn his degree.

By no means should the attention on these two sports detract from the great work by so many of our student-athletes. We should all be proud that four of our teams – women’s lacrosse, women’s tennis, volleyball and women’s water polo – had perfect 100 percent graduation rates, that 16 of 23 measured sports had a GSR of at least 85 percent and that a record nine programs were over 90 percent.

These numbers provide a clear indication of where our priorities are and what can be accomplished, but it will take time to see the results of our current efforts reflected in graduation rate data.

In the months ahead I also plan on convening a university-wide task force consisting of students, faculty and leaders from Athletics and the campus administration for a review of all of the factors that impact the academic performance of our student-athlete population. While there is much that Athletics can and will do on its own, we must have a constructive and comprehensive partnership with the entire University to ensure that the admissions process, academic support programs and our campus culture are all supporting widely shared goals in terms of student-athlete achievement and experience. We cannot and will not be satisfied until we reach a 100 percent graduation rate with every one of our programs.

Your support plays a vital role and I thank you for helping to create a set of expectations that we use as guiding principles when developing programs and allocating resources for our student-athletes.  I’m proud to serve as the director of athletics at one of the most prominent universities in the world – both academically and athletically – a responsibility that I take very seriously. By working together, we can look forward to supporting and building a program that strives for comprehensive excellence now and into the future.

Go Bears!

Sandy Barbour
Director of Athletics
ia_feedback@berkeley.edu


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