Graduation rates show slight signs of improvement

ORLANDO, Fla. — The gap between graduation rates for white and African-American players at schools in the men’s NCAA basketball tournament shrunk this year — the first such decline since 2009 — according to a study released Monday.

The annual report by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) shows African-American players’ graduation rates increased from 59 percent to 60 percent in 2012, while white players’ dropped from 91 percent to 88 percent. The disparity was 22 percentage points in 2009.

The overall graduation rate for this year’s tournament teams increased from 66 to 67 percent, and there was a 3 percent increase in teams graduating half of their players.

Primary study author Richard Lapchick said the improvements were encouraging, but stressed that the drop in racial disparity was in part because of the slight decrease in the graduation rates of white athletes. Still, any lessening of the gap is positive, he said.

Information was collected by the NCAA from member institutions for the study. The institute reviewed the six-year graduation rates of each school’s freshman class, or Graduation Success Rates, then calculated a four-class average, or Academic Progress Rate.

The NCAA created the APR in 2004 and revamped it last year, when a Knight Commission analysis showed 10 of 68 teams in the men’s tournament in 2011 didn’t meet the NCAA’s APR goal of being on track to graduate at least 50 percent of their players.

The NCAA’s new APR incudes a provision that bans teams from participating in the postseason the following year if they don’t have a two-year average score of 930 or a four-year average of 900.

Teams with three straight years of historical penalties (below 900 APR or 45 percent GSR) will face potential scholarship and practice restrictions, as well.

Under the newly adopted NCAA standard, 13 teams in this year’s field, including defending champion Connecticut, have APRs below 930, meaning those teams would not be eligible for postseason participation under the future NCAA rules. Other prominent programs below the 930 mark this year include Syracuse and Florida State.

UConn is facing a ban as early as next season.

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