Penn State football graduation success rate in top 10 percent among FBS schools

October 30, 2013

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The Penn State football team’s superlative NCAA graduation success rate (GSR) is among the top 10 percent of the nation’s Football Bowl Subdivision institutions and tied for second nationally among public FBS institutions.

Penn State football student-athletes who enrolled in the University from 2003-06 earned a graduation success rate of 85 percent, second-highest in the Big Ten Conference and tied with Rutgers and TCU for No. 12 overall among the nation’s 124 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) institutions.

The Nittany Lions’ football graduation rate was tied for No. 2 among all public FBS schools, trailing only Boise State. Penn State’s graduation figure was 15 points higher than the 70 percent FBS average and was second to Northwestern among Big Ten institutions, according to the NCAA.

Penn State football student-athletes who enrolled in the University from 2003-06 earned a four-year federal graduation rate of 72 percent, also No. 2 to Northwestern among Big Ten teams. The Nittany Lions’ graduation figure was 14 points above the 58 percent FBS average, according to the NCAA.

The GSR is the NCAA's more inclusive calculation of student-athlete academic success. The NCAA rate is more accurate than the federally mandated methodology because it includes incoming transfers and students enrolling in the spring semester who receive athletic aid and graduate, and deletes from the calculation student-athletes who leave an institution and were academically eligible to compete.

            Top football graduation success rates among FBS institutions (2013 NCAA data)

             1.  Northwestern, 97 percent

             2.  Rice, 95

             3.  Boston College and Notre Dame, 94

             5.  U.S. Air Force Academy and Stanford, 93

             7.  Duke, 92

             8.  Boise State, 91

             9.  U.S. Military Academy, 89

            10. Miami (Fla.) and Wake Forest, 86

            12. Penn State, Rutgers, TCU, 85

Penn State student-athletes who enrolled from 2003-06 earned a GSR of 88 percent, compared to the 81 percent average for Division I, according to the NCAA.

The outstanding graduation data is the latest success in a long line of academic achievement for members of the Penn State football program, who consistently are at or near the top nationally in academic success:

-- The Nittany Lions’ 17 Academic All-Americans over the past seven years (15 first team selections) leads the nation. Senior guard John Urschel (Williamsville, N.Y.) and 2012 senior Pete Massaro earned first-team Academic All-America accolades last year. Penn State has had a least one first team ESPN Academic All-American in eight of the past nine seasons;

-- The Nittany Lions' all-time total of 51 Academic All-America football honorees ranks third among all FBS institutions;

-- A program record 28 Penn State football student-athletes earned Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2012 for earning at least a 3.0 grade point average and being a letter-winner, bringing the Nittany Lions’ total to 308 honorees since 1993.

For the 2013 NCAA graduation rate data for all institutions, go to

Coach Bill O’Brien’s Nittany Lions play the first of three November home games on Saturday, Nov. 2, hosting Illinois at noon. 

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Last Updated November 04, 2013