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Not all teams making the grade

Times Staff Writer

The NCAA released its latest Graduation Success Rates on Tuesday, with the football teams of the Pacific 10 Conference earning mixed grades.

No surprise to see Stanford ranked at the top of the class. While the Cardinal has struggled through six consecutive losing seasons on the field, 93% of its players have earned degrees.

Washington State is second among Pac-10 teams at 68%. The Los Angeles schools, UCLA and USC, registered at 62% and 54%, respectively.

The most-recent GSR measured student-athletes who enrolled from 1998 through 2001 and graduated within six years. The number for all athletes was 78%, an all-time high by 1%.

While graduation rates are on the rise, the trend has yet to reach Arizona; its players finished last in the Pac-10 at 41%.

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Coach Mike Stoops was not impressed with the NCAA’s numbers. He began coaching the Wildcats in 2004, well after students in the latest report entered school.

“Give me a break,” he said. “That has nothing to do with us . . . they’re so far back-dated.”

In men’s basketball, Arizona, Arizona State, California, UCLA and USC graduated fewer than 50% of their players.

Two of the nation’s worst scores in men’s basketball were turned in by Cal State schools, Fresno and Northridge, at 7% and 8%, respectively.

Too much, too late

A different sort of number irked Washington State last weekend.

The Cougars are no strangers to lopsided defeats but took exception to Oregon State’s throwing a 39-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter of a 66-13 game.

At least two Washington State coaches appeared angry on the sideline and cornerback Romeo Pellum told reporters: “It really shows that Oregon State has no class.”

Oregon State Coach Mike Riley said reserve quarterback Sean Canfield, returning from an injury, needed the work and, besides, the call was for a short pass.

“They went without a safety in the middle of the field and [Canfield] kind of did what he was trained to do,” Riley said. “There was nothing about that except just playing football.”

Washington State Coach Paul Wulff declined to comment but said of his team: “If they’re frustrated as players regarding behavior like that, I’m OK with that.”

The Beavers got unexpected support from Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti. Eleven days ago, USC scored on a 59-yard pass play with 1:50 left in a 44-10 win over the Ducks.

“I’m not sure there’s a time [in the game] when you don’t let your players play,” Bellotti said.

Grind it out

While those academic numbers are no shock, Stanford is a surprise contender in the Pac-10, tied for second in the standings. And the formula for success has been simple.

The Cardinal offense is averaging 184 yards on the ground, a huge improvement over last season. Meanwhile, the defense is surrendering only 114 yards rushing a game and ranks second in the conference in sacks.

That’s tough work in the trenches by a school known more for brains than brawn.

“They just do it over and over and over again and they have big guys,” UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel said, decoding Stanford’s zone blocking scheme. “They’re well-versed at it.”

Questionable future

Washington Coach Tyrone Willingham is facing a tough sell on the recruiting trail.

The Huskies are winless in five games, rank at or near the bottom of every major statistical category in the conference and are surrounded by talk of a coaching change.

Willingham said he keeps telling high school prospects about the success of past years at Washington, but acknowledged: “They’re kind of waiting to see what’s going to happen with coach.”

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david.wharton@latimes.com


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