Do you know what it means to miss Notre Dame? This graduation weekend, this weekend where the latest class of overachievers leave a campus I hardly recognize anymore, I cannot help but pervert the Louis Armstrong classic to bring my thoughts back to the Bend. It’s a Bend I don’t get back to enough, or, really, at all. I was back for Stanford in 2004. Before Stanford, there was law school and finding my way, a wedding, a deployment. Then Katrina, and a kid, intervened. I went back for Michigan in 2014. I don’t get back enough.
Maybe I do. I don’t do well with people, and certainly not with people I know. I don’t understand why they want to talk to me, now, or why they would care what I’ve been up to. My (safe) assumption is that they’re stunned I’m not living under a bridge, but I don’t know that I want the interaction anyway. It’s been too many years.
The NCAA’s 2010 cohort year football graduation stats remind of what it means to miss Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish graduate. Graduation, as defined by the NCAA, is a tricky thing. There are two metrics, the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) and the Federal Graduation Rate (FGR). We’ve written about The Irish and the NCAA success rates in the past, so I thought this weekend would be a good time to look at where we stand against our competition.
Notre Dame football has a very solid score of 96 (GSR) and 90 (FGR). In fact, it’s better than solid. Those are remarkable scores for a premier football program. The only school on our schedule with better rates is Northwestern (99/92). Stanford is second with 96/89, Wake Forest is third with 93/84 and Vanderbilt is fourth with 90/84. I kind of don’t know what to make of Navy’s score, 79/100, but it’s because of the service requirement that comes with the opportunity to cut block and hold on the tax payers’ dime.
Virginia Polytechnical Institute of Hootin’ and Hollerin’ clocks in with an 86/69 (nice), followed by our regional little brother, Michigan, with 82/66. Syracuse is next with 82/62. From there, things go a little pear-shaped. FSU manages a 74/61, Testicle Tech, a 71/60, USC a 73/56, and Pitt, a 74/52.
But that’s a slate of nerd schools, right chair. If ND’s unofficial motto is “Four for Forty,” there are SEC schools that may as well adopt “four out of forty” as theirs. Georgia’s graduation rates are 53/41. Tennessee’s are 65/50.
Notre Dame recruits four year-players. Notre Dame recruits young men to graduate first, to play in the NFL second. After. That’s an important sequence. Look, I was in a graduation ceremony with Rocket Ismail. You can leave early and still graduate. But it’s so hard — that’s what she said — to do it backwards. Time changes things.
There are so many students who never get to experience the crowd calling their name. There are players, though, who would trade the cheers for maybe not having to watch hours of film before studying. Maybe they’d have liked the opportunity of falling off the stage at Finny’s without it making the news. That’s why you have to forgive the occasional offside. The errant “Tommy! No!!!” moment. These are kids. They’re still in school.
To the graduates, congratulations. To the players, thank you. To the parents, job well done.