Graduation rate of tourney teams' black players down for first time

The rate at which black players on teams in the NCAA tournament graduate has gone down for the first time since the NCAA developed a method for tracking the data in 2005, a report released Sunday said.

According to the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, the cumulative Graduation Success Rate of black players on the 68 teams in this year's NCAA men's tournament decreased from 75 percent in 2016 to 74 percent this year.

Overall, according to the NCAA, the cumulative GSR for black men's college basketball players at all schools -- tournament and non-tournament teams -- was 77 percent last year -- the highest in history. The NCAA also said that in the 15 years the NCAA has been tracking the GSR, the rate for black men's players has gone from 46 percent to 77 percent.

The number highlights the results of a study that "sounds an alarm of reversed progress and points to a need for increased vigilance regarding the disparity between white and African-American student-athletes," said Richard Lapchick, the primary author of the study and the director of UCF's Institute.

The graduation rate of white players for the 68 teams in this year's tournament remained the same from last year, at 93 percent, according to the study.

The reduction in the rate for black players and the unchanged rate for white players marked the first increase in the gap between black and white players since the 2011 season.

"After years of unabated progress, the 2017 report shows a slight decline in the progress of African-American student-athletes," Lapchick said in a news release.

Lapchick noted that the graduation rate for black male college students overall is only 42 percent -- 31 percentage points lower than that for black men's basketball players.

"It must be emphasized that African-American male basketball student-athletes graduate at a much higher rate than African-American males who are not student-athletes," Lapchick said.

In November, the NCAA said 77 percent of black men's Division I basketball players who entered college in 2009 earned a degree within six years, which was up 5 percentage points from a year earlier and was a record high.

That improvement helped the overall Graduation Success Rate match the previous record of 86 percent of athletes graduating within six years, the NCAA said. Of all black Division I student-athletes, 74 percent graduated within six years.

"Race remains a continuing academic issue, not only in college sports but also in higher education in general," Lapchick said. "The 19 percentage-point gap between graduation rates for white and African-American male basketball student-athletes demonstrates that."

According to the study, 63 of the 68 tournament teams, or 93 percent, had GSRs of 50 percent or better, which was unchanged from 2016. A rate of 60 percent or more was met by 53 teams, or 78 percent, which was down from 55 teams. Forty seven teams, or 69 percent, graduated 70 percent or more, which was down from 48 teams, according to the study.

The New Orleans Privateers and Oregon Ducks had GSRs below 40 percent in 2017, the study said.

Villanova and Kansas highlighted 12 teams in the tournament with a GSR of 100 percent. That list also included Duke, Notre Dame, Butler, Bucknell, Creighton, Middle Tennessee, Princeton, Dayton, Vermont and Winthrop.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.