Gator Grad Upgrade?

In his brief Gainesville appearance last week, new University of Florida head football coach Urban Meyer made the rounds and made the right, positive impressions. He spoke glowingly about the “flagship” university that is UF, and how much he’s admired its nationally prominent football program. He said he considers the Gators to be the “premier” job in the country, and he welcomes the high expectations of Gator Nation.

He also reiterated his mantra: “Go to class, live right or don’t play.” By all accounts, it’s not an Urban myth.

If graduation rates are a barometer – and a priority — Meyer will have some upgrading to do at Florida. UF didn’t fare particularly well in a recently-released study by the Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sports that shows the graduation rates – both overall and black — of the 56 bowl-bound teams. Florida finished 44th – sporting an overall graduation rate of 42 percent and a black graduation rate of 36 percent. This is also part of Steve Spurrier’s legacy.

As for Utah, Meyer’s old school, the Utes were 46th. Since Meyer was only there two years, the figures are no reflection on his tenure. The overall Utah rate was 41 percent; the black rate 31 percent.

It all underscores the immense challenge that even consummate disciplinarians such as Meyer face. “Student athlete” is too often an oxymoron. Gator graduation rates are unacceptable. And “going to class” is obviously not an end in itself.

Let the Urban renewal begin – on and off the field.

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