This is the first of many occasional (at least monthly) columns by UMBC Director of Athletics Dr. Charles Brown. Dr. Brown is believed to be the longest-tenured AD in the state, with 20 years at the helm of the Retrievers. He has been an athletic director since 1981 and has served two terms as president of the Maryland Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics and one term on the NCAA Division I Championships/Competition Cabinet.

The results are in. No it’s not about league standings in basketball, or championship placing in track or swimming. It’s not about who earned All-American or All-Conference among the Retrievers. It’s about the most important statistics for our 400 student-athletes—academic grades, retention, and graduation rates.

Yes, Retriever fans, the Big Dawgs did it again! Grades from this past semester indicate just how successful we’ve been. It was a “record breaking” semester:

  • A combined athletics team GPA of 2.97 (our highest GPA ever)
  • 32 student-athletes earned a 4.0 semester GPA
  • 54% of all our student-athletes achieved a 3.0 GPA or better (highest percentage ever)

Women’s tennis (3.43 GPA) led the way with swimming at 3.24. The top two men’s teams, track and swimming, topped out at 2.94.

All 19 of our teams are consistently meeting the Academic Progress Rates (APR) developed by the NCAA in order to monitor individual teams meeting predetermined standards. Graduation rates hit an all time high of 70% for UMBC Athletics this past year. This percentage is considerably higher than the current overall UMBC graduation rate.

Although there has been much “ballyhoo” in the media about coddled student-athletes and academic fraud, we at UMBC see first hand the biggest success story of our Athletics Program: our academic results.

According to Myles Brand, Executive Director of the NCAA, “on average, student-athletes out perform the student body counterparts in the classroom, in almost every student-athlete demographic”: The following is a comparison of the national graduation rates between student-athletes and student body:

Student-athlete group Student-athlete graduation rate Student-body graduation rate
Overall 63% 61%
White 67% 63%
African-American 53% 44%
White males 60% 61%
African-American males 48% 37%
White females 74% 66%
African-American females 66% 50%

A very rewarding part of my job is meeting our athletic alums and hearing of how successful they’ve become in their chosen careers. Recently I attended a swim team alumni reception. I met an attorney, a government intelligence officer, a high school principal, a stock broker, a chiropractor, and a myriad of alums with impressive credentials. Obviously, the UMBC education prepared our graduating student-athletes for the world of work.

Part of that education was the experience while competing for the Retrievers, including conditioning, weight training, and practicing, all while carrying a full academic load each semester. That’s why graduates who competed in college sports are most often considered ideal candidates for the world of work when teamwork, poise under pressure, time management, and social skills all help make for success.

Congratulations to all our student-athletes for their outstanding achievements during this past fall semester.