Hokies' Football Success Doesn't Stop Off The Field

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Virginia Tech's football program in 2013 saw better results in the classroom than the stadium.

Remember when you got that C in Chemistry and your parents warned you to shape up and study harder or else no (insert favorite activity) for a week? That doesn't stop when you get to college. For Virginia Tech football players, Frank Beamer is the father, and he runs a tight ship.

Academic success for athletes within a program is measured by the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) or the Federal Graduation Rate (FGR). The FGR has come under fire in recent years because it only takes into account freshmen who graduate within six years, leaving transfer students out of the equation. Due to this, all of the numbers I present today are in the GSR format, which measures the graduation rates of all players.

In 2013, the football program enjoyed a graduation rate of 78 percent. This is well ahead of the national average of 68 percent. It is higher even than Tech's GSR as a school, 77.5 percent. However, it is lower than the 90 percent celebrated by the entire VT athletic department. The earliest data that could be found is from the 1998 season, when the Tech football GSR was at 72 percent. Traditionally, the Hokies have a smart football program.

Every team has a few brainiacs on the bench. For example, Christian Beyer of the basketball squad has a 4.0 GPA. Players who don't take the field very often but have good grades can help the GSR a lot. A better alternative may be to look at the GSR of solely the starters or heavy contributors. But that data is not public. Another factor that skews the GSR is players leaving early. Because they aren't graduating, they count against the school's success rate

To compare, here is a chart illustrating how Tech matched up academically against some of the bowl bound non-ACC programs in 2013:

School:

GSR:

Oregon

72.00%

Auburn

70.00%

Alabama

73.00%

Baylor

67.00%

Oklahoma

51.00%

LSU

74.00%

South Carolina

65.00%

Texas A&M

74.00%

USC

53.00%

When it comes to academic success, Tech beats out most of the big time programs. Here is how the Hokies fared against the ACC's bowl bound schools:

School:

GSR:

North Carolina

65.00%

Boston College

94.00%

Miami

86.00%

Florida State

58.00%

Louisville

67.00%

Pittsburgh

68.00%

Maryland

73.00%

Syracuse

77.00%

Duke

92.00%

Clemson

77.00%

Georgia Tech

63.00%

As you can see we are in good company. The ACC is renowned for it's academics, and only Florida State has a GSR near 50 percent. The school which led the nation in GSR was Northwestern, with a near perfect 97 percent.

Grades are very important for a program, even before the player arrives on campus. Beamer seems to have a knack for choosing players who make smart decisions both on and off the field. However, there are some exceptions. Every year there are a handful of players who don't make it to campus because of their grades. These recruits end up spending a year at a prep school like Hargrave or Fork Union in order to get their GPA or SAT scores where they need them to be for their scholarship.

A few recruits end up taking the easy way out and choose a different program altogether. In 2013, Hokie fans were enthusiastic when star running back Drew Harris committed to four years in Blacksburg. Unfortunately, he did not qualify academically and ended up enrolling in a junior college. It is due to academics that Harris will never step foot on Worsham field. It was a huge loss. Harris could have been the star power the Hokies needed to take their game to the next level. If Harris had qualified, the running game may have looked much different, and could have buoyed Tech into the ACC championship. In some ways, a single high school class can mean the difference between a good season and a great season.

For those of you looking at Florida State's 58 percent GSR and thinking we need to get dumber to win more football games, that's not the answer. These are student athletes, and as Samuel Jackson stated in the movie Coach Carter, "Student comes first." Most of these kids won't go on to play pro football. It's important that we maintain academic success so the players who don't make it can graduate and go on to do bigger and better things. For me, having a high rate of success in the classroom is much more important than winning a championship.

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