Loyola University Chicago

Quinlan School of Business

Building winning teams on and off the court

Building winning teams on and off the court

Loyola University Chicago players celebrate after beating Kansas State to advance to the Final Four in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. (Photo: Lukas Keapproth)

Loyola’s student-athletes excel in the classroom and on the court.

The 2017-18 men’s basketball team exemplifies this: In the midst of the team’s historic run to the Final Four, players and Quinlan students Clayton Custer and Ben Richardson were named to the Division I-AAA Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete Team.

Below, Nicholas Lash, PhD, professor of finance, reflects on the recent success of the men’s basketball team—on and off the court—and Loyola’s history of holding its student-athletes to a high academic standard. 

Loyola’s commitment to its student-athletes

By Nicholas Lash, PhD | Professor of Finance

They will be talking about this Loyola Cinderella team for decades. Congratulations to Coach Moser and the entire basketball team.

What is particularly notable about this year’s success is that Loyola University Chicago has committed itself to building winning teams the hard way, that is, by demanding that their athletes be solid students.

An op-ed in the March 16 Wall Street Journal by Joseph Epstein titled “I Love College Basketball, but now I feel March Sadness” decries the corruption in university athletics. He mentioned numerous transgressions including a phone call to a Chicago radio show in the 1980s by a professor who asked the coach why the star basketball players in her class never attended.    

In sharp contrast, in 1988-89, Loyola decimated its talented basketball team by ruling six of its basketball players to be academically ineligible for the season. One was the nation’s leading rebounder the previous year and another the team’s leading scorer. Five of the six were eligible by NCAA standards, but could not clear Loyola’s higher academic hurdle.

It is fair to question how many other universities would have made the same decision. Predictably, some alumni and basketball fans were very upset, recruitment efforts suffered, and Loyola has had but four winning seasons since. Yet, Loyola stuck to its academic standards. 

Graduation Success Rate for athletes

For example, the Graduate Success Rate (GSR), which tracks the percentage of student-athletes who graduate within six years, was published for the universities that participated in the 2018 NCAA’s Division I Men’s Basketball tournament. For overall student-athletes, Loyola was tied for first of the 68 universities with a 99 percent GSR. 

For men’s basketball, the GSR was lower for most of the universities, including Loyola which dropped to a GSR of 88 percent. While pointing to the need for improvement, it should be noted that Loyola’s GSR was in the top-third of the 68 suggesting that its commitment to academics is stronger than at many universities. Parenthetically, 12 universities had a GSR of 60 percent or lower and 5 had a GSR of 50 percent or lower.  

Sweet success

Building a successful men’s basketball team in the highly competitive environment of college sports is challenging enough, but doing so while limiting recruitment to able students makes it all the more so. Yet, this year, Loyola, among some other universities, showed that it can be done, making the success all the sweeter. 

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