The University of Arizona and its fans have often, and repeatedly, chided ASU as an academically inferior institution. In particular, UA football coach Mike Stoops has repeatedly lobbed false claims that recruits who chose ASU over UA did so because it was easier to get into ASU, even though admissions standards are set by ABOR and are identical at all three state universities.

When it comes to the academic accomplishments of its athletes, UA is right: things are different in Tucson—but not for the better. For example, earlier this week Stanford’s The Bootleg reported on the results of the NCAA 2010 Graduation Success Rate Report.

For UA, the numbers are nothing short of shameful.

Arizona has fallen into last place. Remarkably, and a fact we would hope Arizona taxpayers would note, U-of-A! also has the worst graduation rate of all major basketball programs and the second-worst graduation rate of all BCS football programs.

Yes, you read that correctly: UA has the worst basketball graduation rate of any major basketball program in the nation, as well as the second-worst graduation rate of all BCS football programs. Worst, and second worst, in the nation.

The “University” of Arizona pulled off an appalling, but impressive hat trick, with the Pac 10’s worst graduation rate in football, basketball, and baseball.

And after reading those stats, it’s not surprising to guess what’s coming next.

Arizona’s graduation rate of 65% for all athletes is the worst for any major sports program.

Yikes—the worst major sports program in the country for graduating student athletes?!! Wow. Even this diehard ASU fan is embarrassed for them in earning such a distinction.

Now, ASU still has room for improvement in the athlete graduation department, but it’s certainly not competing for dead last in the country. In fact, ASU has made some good progress and been a national leader in launching programs like Scholar Baller, which has now been adopted by more than 50 universities.

Of course, none of this should be too surprising. ASU’s been making some serious strides in important measures like increasing freshman retention rates and decreasing loan default rates, even while growing as fast as Phoenix. Arizona, on the other hand, seems to be sitting on its hands and watching those same numbers move in the wrong direction.

That’s probably why UA’s own student paper, the Daily Wildcat, had this say last fall (emphasis mine):

According to a recent poll in The Wall Street Journal, Arizona State University ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to U.S. companies’ desire to hire graduates. The UA did not even crack the top 25.

The UA has spent years pooh-poohing its neighbor to the north, certain in its status as the academically stronger and more rigorous Arizona university. But increasingly over the past several years, that attitude simply doesn’t match up with the facts.

I’m of the opinion that arguing about whether one university is academically better as a whole than another is a futile exercise unless one of those institutions is either among the very best, or among the very worst in the nation. Otherwise, it’s like arguing which color is better: it all depends on how you measure it and the circumstances of the situation you’re in; what works for one student might not work for another. In general, college is like any other learning opportunity: you get out what you put in.

But one thing is clear—the tired old smack talk that UA sports fans often resort to in denigrating ASU’s academics just no longer applies. And that’s really got to hurt for UA faithful to acknowledge.

As the Daily Wildcat article explained, “Painful as it is to say, ASU must be doing something right.” UA clearly isn’t.