Academically speaking, while most of the nation regards the south as a bunch of slack-jawed yokels, the most recent report (2002) from the NCAA shows that the South Eastern Conference isn't as far behind the rest of the nation as one might think.

The national Division I average was a 58% graduation rate for all students and 60% for student-athletes. (This allows six years for graduation, and only counts athletes on scholarship toward 'student-athletes')

Vanderbilt scored well above the national average, graduating 84%/88% (All/Athletes), but many of the other schools were at least respectable.

Seven of the 12 schools graduated more than 50% of their student athletes (Alabama, Miss. St., Vandy, Tennessee, Florida, S.Carolina, and Georgia).

Arkansas (46%/35%) and Kentucky (57%/40%) did have rather embarrassing scores, but the rest of the conference was a little below average, but not outrageously so.

At six of the 12 schools, The discrepancy between the rates of All Students and Athletes was less than 5%.

The largest discrepancy between total graduation rate (all students) and student athlete rates occurred at Auburn (68%/45%) with 23% (Arkansas, Florida, and Kentucky all had discrepancies larger than 10%) -- that is to say that the universities should, by and large, be no more ashamed of their athletic graduation rates than they should of their total graduation rates.

While it may be a bit cliche to assume that student athletes don't graduate all that often (especially in the south), the actual numbers tell quite a different story at most schools.

All data from the NCAA