In Different College Basketball Bracket, Study Finds Gap in Graduation Rate

BY Mike Melia  March 14, 2012 at 4:11 PM EDT

Syracuse men's basketball team; photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Although the Syracuse men’s basketball team received a No. 1 seed in this year’s championship tournament, the program failed to meet NCAA graduation rate standards. Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images.

Ahead of Thursday’s tipoff of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, a study has found anew that the gap in the graduation rate between white and black players remains wide.

The annual report, “Keeping Score When It Counts,” by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida found a 28 percent difference between the graduation rates of white players compared to their black counterparts. The report found a four-point improvement from last year, but according to lead author Richard Lapchick the driving force behind the change was a decrease in the percentage of white players graduating.

Overall, the graduation rate for male basketball student-athletes ticked up slightly to 67 percent from 66 percent in 2011. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, a former college basketball player, has pushed the NCAA for years to improve the number of graduating athletes and last year called for the NCAA to ban teams with graduation rates below 40 percent from competing in the championship tournament.

In October, the NCAA responded by requiring all teams to meet a 50 percent graduation rate, with failure to do so for three straight years resulting in a ban from postseason play and potential scholarship and practice restrictions as well.

“Clear incentives change behavior in a radical way,” Duncan said on a call to reporters Wednesday. He praised the NCAA for moving “faster and further” on this issue than many expected.

This year, 13 teams in the men’s tournament failed to meet that new standard, including 2011 national champion Connecticut and 2012 tournament No. 1 seed Syracuse.

Once again, women’s college basketball programs beat the men in graduation rates. The report found 92 percent of the women’s teams compared to 39 percent of men’s teams graduate at least 70 percent of their players. Twenty-two women’s teams have a 100 percent graduation rate in this year’s tournament, including the University of Connecticut.

“The women’s teams always give us good news to report each year. It has been clear that student-athletes on women’s basketball teams graduate at a higher rate that student-athletes on men’s basketball teams,” Lapchick said.

“Additionally, the disparity gap between white and African-American student athletes has always been significantly smaller on women’s teams compared to men’s teams. This year’s study reveals that there has been no change in the disparity between graduation rates of white and African-American women student-athletes, which remains 8 percent compared to 28 percent for the men’s teams,” Lapchick said.

You can read the reports here: men and women.