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Graduation Day: A Million Dreams Have All Gone Bad...

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...or at least 47.5 percent of them, on average, for the incoming freshmen of 1996-97 through 1999-2000, according to the NCAA's Division I graduation rates as reported by the Indianapolis Star (to see the full rankings, click on 'Multimedia' links to the top right of the page; hat tip: Da Wiz, of course).

As football fans, naturally, we are all primarily concerned with the academic well-being of our fledgling student-athletes. With this classroom concern in mind, the numbers offer some insight into how to improve the chances of your school's gridiron scholars actually receiving the valuable piece of commemorative paper with shiny embossing and indecipherable calligraphy for which they've so valiantly striven:

? Move the school to the Northeast SMQ defines "Northeast" as roughly "North Carolina on up," which encompasses all but two (Dayton and Notre Dame) of the dozen schools topping 95 percent and both of the institutions (Central Connecticut State and Davidson) with suspicious 100 percent graduation rates.

It also helps if the school is private, as all but one of the top 25 schools and academies (including all three service academies, thank God, though barely in the case of Army) are. The only state school is the aformentioned CCSU, uncoincidentally located in the very literate New Britain, Conn.

Both of these trends hold generally throughout the top 50.

? Stay out of the South: Conversely, the schools whose finishes come in below the list's metaphorically convenient Mason-Dixon line correspond geographically: the bottom 30 is virtually all South or Southwest - with surprising exceptions of Minnesota, Michigan State, Temple and especially California, all with dismal rates of just 44 percent - and particularly smacks the SWAC, which has nine members out of ten below the 50 percent barrier (the tenth, Alcorn State, improbably checks in at 85 percent, roughly double the rate of conference rivals Texas Southern, Grambling, Jackson State, Alabama State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Mississippi Valey State and Prairie View A&M, and ranking as the best among public schools in the former Confederacy).

? Don't look too far for the campus "hotties.": When representing your top-notch school, do not think of doing so in a fun or unusual way, such as with a picture of a normal, unwisely-vested guy ("prospective/current student") holding hands with a babe on a roof.

Rather, you'll want to show "student life" at your school as something more like:

Spot accidental near-midriffs while aiding the injured - Central Connecticut State!

Remember, though, that even the strategically concealed and homely, mud-slathered freshman bloggers are preferrable to a male-female ratio of 19 to 1.

In other words, be as demographically stereotypical as possible: rich Northerners succeed, Southerners - especially black Southerners - do not, and still it's a wash because Yankee weather sucks and private school chicks are ogres.

On this last point, take, for instance, Jim Tressel's daughter, Carlee, an aspiring writer and certifiable non-looker who left the prestigious University of Chicago with these prophetic words from her poem "Sold Out" last Spring:

"Yeah, I know the game
better than you think,
and someday y'all'll envy
the deal I ink.
You must think I'm stupid
If you think I'm not thinkin'
`bout my future gold mine.
I'll leave you
and you'll miss me too
`cause I'll come back to haunt you."

By putting to print the vernacular "y'all'll," for the record,  Carlee has deployed an unprecedented two-contractions-in-one bomb ("You all will"), for which young Ms. Tressel receives mad ups from SMQ, yo.

Also from the Indy Star: The Reappearance of Jeff Samardzija. 'Cause we were all wondering what had happened to one of the most high-profile players on the nation's most high-profile team while he was catching 23 passes and four touchdowns over the past four nationally-televised hypefests, presumably. Hey, didja hear he also plays baseball?