Gonzaga University athletic programs don’t just win on the field, water and hardwood; they win in the classroom, too.
According to the latest Graduation Success Rate (GSR) report, GU athletes are graduating at a 98% success rate, with 10 athletic teams achieving 100% graduation success.
“We don’t just win games,” said Mike Roth, GU director of athletics. “We’re also here to have our student-athletes get their education.”
GSR is a tool that measures the graduation rate of student-athletes who graduated within six years, not counting transfer students. The formula removes student-athletes who leave school while still academically eligible, but includes students who transfer from a different school after having been enrolled elsewhere.
GU’s mark of 98% is tied for seventh best in the nation and tops in the West Coast Conference. The average GSR in the NCAA is 89%.
For perspective, universities with similar GSR scores include Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Dartmouth. But Roth said it’s rare for a school to be as successful academically as it is athletically.
“In big-time college athletics, that doesn’t always happen,” Roth said. “At Gonzaga, we’ve shown that you can win championships and do some very special things athletically, and at the same time, excel academically.”
This excellence in both arenas is nothing new for GU. Since 2016, the university has had at least 98% of its student-athletes graduate, including tying for the nation’s best GSR in 2017.
It seems the tradition has been established by both GU athletes and administrators, and their commitment to success in the classroom while pursuing their athletic passions.
“We, as a department, over the years have really grown a culture of being academically successful,” said Steffany Galbraith, director of academic support services. “We’re trying to be one of the top athletic departments in the country in both [academics and athletics].”
Galbraith is a part of the Student-Athlete Support Services (S.A.S.S), a group dedicated to supporting student-athletes academically, which ranges from monitoring grades to tutoring and advising athletes in all sports.
She is also the director of academic support for the men’s basketball team, which had a GSR of 100% for the fourth consecutive year. The national GSR average for men’s basketball is 80%.
“I think it’s really exciting,” Galbraith said. “It’s something for us as an entire department to be really proud of and to know our student athletes are excelling.”
Men’s basketball has a tradition of thriving on and off the court. Over the past 22 years, there have been three Zags named first team All-American and first team academic All-American in the same season. That feat has only occurred three other times in the country over the same span.
Men’s basketball wasn’t the only team to continue a streak of perfection. The women’s basketball team also registered a GSR of 100% for the third consecutive year.
Other notable GU athletic teams to extend its 100% GSR scores include women’s cross country and track and field (15th straight), women’s golf (15th straight), men’s cross country and track and field (12th straight), men’s tennis (11th straight), men’s soccer (10th straight), women’s soccer (ninth straight) and men’s golf (eight straight). In total, 11 out of the 13 eligible programs earned an above-average GSR score.
When the GSR was first instituted in 2002, the national graduation rate among student-athletes was 74%. That average has risen 15 points since then, to 89%, with nearly 9 out of every 10 college student-athletes earning a degree.
The importance of student-athlete education has seemingly grown nationally, due to studies like the GSR. But the Zags continue to outpace the national average with their academic and athletic prowess. Winning in the classroom, winning on the field — something of mantra for GU athletics.
“If it was easy, then everyone would be doing it,” Roth said.