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THE INSIDE TRACK | PAGE TWO / RANDY HARVEY

Trying to Put the Student Back in Student-Athlete

November 18, 1998|RANDY HARVEY

UCLA wins.

I'm not talking about Saturday's football game against USC. I haven't made up my mind about that yet. I'm talking about graduation rates for football players.

According to a survey released last week by the NCAA, 65% of scholarship football players who enrolled at UCLA in 1991 graduated within six years compared to 53% at USC.

When I broached that subject Tuesday with USC Athletic Director Mike Garrett, he was as frustrated with it as he is with the Trojans' seven-game losing streak to the Bruins in football.

He should be. As hard as Garrett has tried on occasion in the past, the athletic director can't do much to influence the outcome of a football game. He can, however, influence whether student-athletes actually are students.

"I would like it higher," Garrett said of the Trojans' football graduation rate, which is the national average for Division I-A universities. "We've addressed it by going through some transition in the area of academic support. My goal is to be 70%."

USC was over 70% two years ago and has since gone backward.

But, as Mark Twain once said, the three kinds of lies are lies, damned lies and statistics. The statistics as presented by the NCAA are not as damning as they appear. In fact, USC and UCLA fans should be proud of the strides made since the early '80s when they were among the Pac-10 Five put on probation in an academic scandal.

UCLA and USC have since adopted higher admission standards for athletes than the NCAA requires. UCLA's are higher than any other Pac-10 university's except Stanford and among the highest in the nation.

Also, there is a system for computing graduation rates that is more representative of the universities' efforts than the one used in the popular survey. It deals with exhausted athletic eligibility, eliminating athletes who dropped out, transferred or turned professional before they were seniors and including only those who completed four years of eligibility.

The NCAA does not break that down by sport. But, according to that system, UCLA's graduation rate for athletes is 87% and USC's is 81%. In a first for USC, Fred Stroock, a special assistant to Garrett, said 100% of the football players in the class of '93, meaning last year's fifth-year seniors, will graduate.

They never beat UCLA. But long after the disappointment of that has subsided, they will have their diplomas.

*

With some promotions sponsored by pro teams, kids can go to a game and get a cap or a beach towel or maybe even a Beanie Baby. With the Kings on Saturday night, kids can go to the game and get a math lesson. . . .

What's next for the kids? Flu Shot Night? . . .

Or what about this one for adults? The first 1,000 ticket buyers get an IRS audit. . . .

Let's keep math where it belongs--in the classroom and out of hockey arenas. The way the Kings score, you hardly ever have to count higher than one, anyway. . . .

Davey Johnson was a math major at Texas A&M and Trinity University. . . .

When the new Dodger manager was a second baseman for the Baltimore Orioles in the '60s, he spotted a flaw in pitcher Dave McNally's delivery. . . .

So Johnson hurried to the mound to inform McNally he was in an "unfavorable chance deviation" and that he should throw the ball down the middle. . . .

"Get back to second base," McNally told Johnson. . . .

I can't wait for Johnson to explain "unfavorable chance deviation" to Carlos Perez. . . .

The Angels announced Tuesday that they are raising ticket prices for next season by an average of 9%. Of course, if they don't sign Mo Vaughn or Randy Johnson, refunds will be forthcoming. . . .

Although omm'A Givens quit Pepperdine's basketball team last summer, he still has a heading on the Waves' web site. . . .

It's a little like his game. When you click onto it, there's not much there. . . .

At least he's optimistic. If you click onto the question about what he expects to be doing in three years, you're forwarded to the NBA's web site. . . .

USC Coach Paul Hackett took time out from preparing for UCLA to watch the Monday night game between the team he used to assist as offensive coordinator, the Chiefs, and the Broncos. It made him almost as sick as watching films of Cade McNown.

*

While wondering about the baseball writers who left Trevor Hoffman off their Cy Young Award ballots, I was thinking: It looks as though Craig Hartsburg wasn't the problem with the Blackhawks, the NFL should adopt soccer's red card system that forces a player out of a game after two flagrant fouls, the wedding between Dennis Rodman and Carmen Electra is another example of unfavorable chance deviation.

*

Randy Harvey can be reached at his e-mail address: randy.harvey@latimes.com

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