The perception that student-athletes have it easy wasn’t lost on former Boston College point guard Biko Paris. But every time he heard it he laughed.
“I hear it a lot and I heard it a lot growing up,” he said. “I wish it was true, but it’s not.”
The athletes at BC had their own tutors. But they were no different from the ones the other students enlisted at the university help center.
In some ways, Paris said, student-athletes have it harder. For instance, a normal student could skip a class if he had a long night. If Paris missed a class, he ran laps.
“I wish grades were given to us or we didn’t have class,” he said, chuckling. “I really wish it was like that but it’s not. I don’t know where they get that [perception] from, but we do just as much if not more than a regular student.”
Paris arrived at BC with his mother’s words ringing in his ear.
“The ball won’t bounce forever,” she told him.
He played four years, scored 783 points in 129 games, and graduated on time in 2011 with a degree in sociology.
“Making sure you graduated was a main priority at BC,” Paris said.
The NCAA released its annual graduation success rate data this week (based on student-athletes who started school in 2005) and Boston College was tied for third in the nation among Football Bowl Subdivision schools, with 97 percent of its student-athletes completing their degrees. BC trailed only Notre Dame (99 percent) and Duke (98). Northwestern matched BC’s rate.
The BC football team graduated 94 percent of its players, tied with Miami for the highest rate in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Seventeen of BC’s 29 Division 1 programs graduated 100 percent of its athletes.
Nationwide, graduation rates in football and men’s basketball increased. Basketball jumped to 74 percent, a 6 percent increase from a year ago, and football bumped to 70 percent, a 1 percent gain.
According to US News and World Report, BC is 24th in the nation in four-year graduation rate at 87 percent.
“Coaches as well as our academic advisors pushed us to the limit as far as making sure our grades were up to par and we were all up with our classes and actually on time to graduate. It was schoolwork then basketball,” Paris said. “If you didn’t have the grades or if you weren’t caught up on your work, you would miss practice. You would have study hall. You would have to spend time with a tutor. Academics was forced upon us.”
After the 2010-11 season, rather than stay for his senior year at Boston College, all-ACC guard Reggie Jackson entered the NBA draft and was taken 24th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But when he left the Heights, he needed only two classes to complete his degree.
“That shows you how hard they push you to make sure you’re reaching your requirements and getting ahead,” Paris said. “He can go back and finish those classes whenever he’s ready to.”
Paris had a chance to go to Southern Cal and play under Tim Floyd, but chose Boston College largely because of its academics.
His senior season, he was ahead of schedule. He needed just two core classes to finish. He took one in the fall, one in the spring.
He played professionally in Germany after graduation, then returned to the States and looked into getting his foot in the door as a coach. He checked in with a network of BC coaches, including Steve Donahue, Joe Jones, Pat Duquette, and Mo Cassara. When a job as video coordinator under Jones at Boston University opened up, he jumped at it.
Since he’s been in the working world, he’s discovered the strength of his BC degree.
“Getting a degree from Boston College is huge, especially up north, from New York, the Boston area down to Washington D.C., you having a Boston College degree it speaks measures for itself.”
Julian Benbow can be reached at email@example.com.