By Erin O'Neill February 12, 2012

Chris Christie claims under Greg Schiano, Rutgers football had the best graduation rate in its division

Greg Schiano has his detractors in New Jersey, but Gov. Chris Christie isn’t one of them.

The governor defended the football coach, who recently left Rutgers University to become head coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in a Jan. 31 radio interview. Despite criticism about Schiano’s 11-year tenure with the Scarlet Knights, Christie said the coach transformed the program from a "laughingstock" into a fierce competitor -- and in more than just athletics.

"Here's something that people never talk about with coach Schiano: Rutgers had the best graduation rate of any Division I football program in America. Now, when all you see is scandal all over college football, in 11 years you never saw it touch Rutgers. Not once," Christie said on New Jersey 101.5’s "Ask the Governor" program.  "And he graduated his kids from college, so those kids if they went on to the NFL like some of the folks who have gone on to the NFL and done really well, great. But the majority of them don't and for the majority who don't, he got them out of Rutgers with a Rutgers degree and I tell you, I bet you the parents of those kids love Greg Schiano because those kids now have a future because they have a college degree from a great university like Rutgers."

There’s a reason people don’t talk about Rutgers’ football team earning the top graduation rate in its division: it never did.

There are 120 teams playing in the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A.

Rutgers’ Scarlet Knights play in the division’s Big East Conference with seven other teams. The most recent data available on graduation success rates, which are calculated by the NCAA, ranks Rutgers at the top of its conference, but not the top of its division.

Among Football Bowl Subdivision teams, Notre Dame, Northwestern University, Rice University, Boston College, Duke University and the U.S. Naval Academy had higher graduation success rates than Rutgers.

Rutgers never topped its division in graduation rates under Schiano, but it’s worth noting that in  five years, the team’s NCAA graduation rate climbed from 55 percent to 89 percent.

The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment, but a spokesman for the Rutgers football program said: "I would think he was referring to our APR, which he has commented on before."

The APR, or academic progress rate, is another measure of academic performance based on whether a student-athlete remains academically eligible and remains with the school.

Emily Potter, a NCAA spokeswoman, said in an email that the academic progress rate is "intended to be predictive of eventual graduation rates. Both should be important measures of academic success, and the higher that one of these measures is, the more likely it is that the other will also be high."

But, "having said that, it is true that graduation is not included in the actual measurement of APR."

Rutgers grabbed the top spot in its division by that measure two years ago. Last year, Rutgers fell to the second spot in the academic progress rate rankings, behind Northwestern University in Illinois.

David Ridpath, an assistant professor of sports administration at Ohio University, said in an email that "Governor Christie is incorrect, but probably not intentional on his part—still he should be more careful with his absolute statements."

Our ruling

Christie claimed that "Rutgers had the best graduation rate of any Division I football program in America."

The Scarlet Knights ranked at the top of their conference, but not the top of their division for graduation rates in the most recent data. During Schiano’s tenure, the team never had the best graduation rate in the division. By another measure of academic performance, Rutgers football topped its division, but, according to a NCAA spokeswoman, graduation is not included in that calculation.

We rate the statement False.

To comment on this ruling, go to NJ.com.

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Our Sources

New Jersey 101.5, Ask the Governor, Jan. 31, 2012

National Collegiate Athletic Association, Division I Graduation Success Rates, accessed Feb. 1, 2012

National Collegiate Athletic Association, Academic Progress Rate, accessed Feb. 1, 2012

ESPN, College Football Teams, accessed Feb 1, 2012

National Collegiate Athletic Association, Academic Progress Rate: Rutgers University, 2009-2010, accessed Feb. 1, 2012

Rutgers University, Athletics & Recreation, accessed Feb. 1, 2012

National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA grad rates top 80 percent, Oct. 25, 2011

National Collegiate Athletic Association, Academic Progress Rate, accessed Feb. 1, 2012

National Collegiate Athletic Association, Graduation Rates, accessed Feb. 1, 2012

Rutgers University, Rutgers Football Earns Prestigious #1 National Ranking in NCAA Academic Progress Rate, June 9, 2012

The Star-Ledger, Rutgers football ranks in top 10 in APR for fourth straight year, May 17, 2011

The Star-Ledger, Rutgers football finishes No. 1 nationally in latest Academic Progress Rate assessment, June 9, 2010

National Collegiate Athletic Association, NCAA Academic Reform, accessed Feb. 1, 2012

Rutgers University, Greg Schiano Named Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Jan. 26, 2012

Email interview with Jason Baum, associate athletic director/communications for Rutgers University, Feb. 2, 2012

National Collegiate Athletic Association, Glossary of Terms, accessed Feb. 2, 2012

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Chris Christie claims under Greg Schiano, Rutgers football had the best graduation rate in its division

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