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NCAA reports record graduation rates for athletes [Updated]

Student athletes continue to graduate at record rates, with football and some men's basketball players showing major improvement, the NCAA said Wednesday.

For the second year in a row, 79% of athletes who entered college between 2000 and 2004 graduated within six years, according to the annual Graduation Success Rate report. The freshman class of 2003-04 also saw 79% of its students graduate, matching the record set by the comparable class in the studies from the previous two years.

Football players who entered college in 2003-04 graduated 69% of the time, up from 66% in the previous report. Eighteen of the top 25 teams in the BCS standings graduated at least 60% under the four-year measures, led by Miami (81%), Iowa (79%) and Virginia Tech (79%). Oklahoma and Arizona were the only teams below 50% in both measures.

The overall number for men's basketball remained at 66% for 2003-04, but African American players are up three percentage points to a record 60%. Under the four-year measure, 12 of last year's final top 25 teams were at 50% or lower, including California at 30% and Connecticut at 31%. But Villanova and Illinois each had 100% graduation rates, and the top two teams, Duke and Butler, were each at 83%.

[Updated at 1:21 p.m.: The overall graduation success rate for students starting in 2003 at USC and UCLA is right around average, with 78% for the Trojans and 79% for the Bruins. UCLA graduated 68% of men's basketball players and 52% of football players who started between 2000-2003. USC graduated 42% of men's basketball players and 61% of football players from the same time period.

A full report on all schools and sports is here.]

-- Chuck Schilken

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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