(Gary Williams, shown ejecting DJ Strawberry from practice after a book was found in his locker)

We’ve discussed some of the problems with the NCAA’s CGR (that’s College Graduation Rate) reporting in this space before. There are all kinds of weird cul de sacs and curlicues — many of them related to transferring, for whatever reason, which punishes both the school from which a player transfers and the school they arrive at. But the bottom line in the Baltimore Sun report sent over by Brendan Flynn is still pretty low. To wit: none of the basketball players Gary Williams recruited at Maryland between 1997 and 2000 graduated from school within six years:

The program’s graduation success rate, calculated by an NCAA formula, fell for the third straight year at a time when graduation rates are rising nationally for men’s basketball programs. The GSR shows that none of the starters and top reserves of Maryland’s 2002 national championship team graduated within six years of entering school.

“They had a lot of on-court success, but we would’ve liked more off-court success,” said Anton Goff, associate athletic director for academic support and career development. “For some reason or other, that didn’t happen as far as graduation rates are concerned. We can’t change the number now. We’re not happy about it, but it was 10 years ago.”

“These people are very successful people,” Maryland coach Gary Williams said. “If you go to school to improve yourself economically, where have they failed? They make more than the average college graduate. Far more. If you’re judging them just based on getting a degree, then OK, they haven’t gotten a degree…”

Last year, four of the six Maryland seniors graduated, and both current seniors on the roster are on pace to graduate in four years, Williams said.

The GSR will rise above zero next year because at least one player graduated from the next class measured, Goff said. Basketball scores can change more quickly than football scores because the sport features so many fewer players. The latest GSR figures show that 77 percent of student-athletes who began college from 1997-2000 graduated within six years, similar to the data released last year.

Brendan, easily the biggest Maryland fan ever to attend school with me in California, adds:

Gary argues that each of the athletes left school to pursue their pro careers and each earns more money currently than the average college graduate. I’m sure that’s true. But it also seems a little short sighted. It does raise questions, though, like why do kids have to leave as soon as their season is over in March to work out for the NBA draft, making it impossible to stay in school for their spring semester? Can’t something be done about that?

It’s a little embarrassing to realize that they graduated no one. And its tough to argue that Chris Wilcox, Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, or even Lonny Baxter needed a college degree. Given his success in Europe it would seem even Drew Nicholas will be fine. But, Byron Mouton, Ryan “Sleepy” Randle and Tahj Holden? I think they could use that down the road. I guess they can always come back. It’s a bummer to realize that MD is basically a Memphis. Can’t wait for the new Cameron Crazies taunt–although for the record their 67% was well below Florida State’s 100%.