- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 15, 2011

ORLANDO, FLA. (AP) - A study released Tuesday found the women’s teams in this year’s NCAA basketball tournament graduated their players at a higher rate than their male counterparts.

An annual report by the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics shows all the women’s teams graduated at least 50 percent of their players compared with 76 percent of the men’s teams reaching the 50 percent mark.

In the women’s tournament, 91 percent of the teams graduated at least 70 percent of their players, compared to 48 percent of the men’s tourney teams.

As is the case with the men, a racial disparity exists between white and black players on the women’s side, but the gap is not nearly as wide.

Richard Lapchick, the institute director and primary author of the study, said the women’s stronger numbers have become a historical trend.

“I think for women athletes and basketball players the emphasis is on balancing academic and athletic performance,” Lapchick said. “Coaches and everybody involved advising the women have pushed positive academic success. That’s become a tradition in women’s sports.

“But there are some of the same people advising both men’s and women’s teams on these campuses. So there’s a sort of academic challenge there, too. For me the next step is to hold up the women as a model of what we can do.”

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 that enrolled in 2003-04, then calculated a four-class average. Princeton was not included in the overall graduation rate figures because it, like other Ivy League schools, doesn’t report graduation rates.

The NCAA created the Academic Progress Rate in 2004 to improve graduation rates, disciplining schools in the form of lost scholarships when they don’t meet the NCAA standard for academic performance. Teams that score below 925 _ equal to a graduation rate of 50 percent_ can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships. Poor performance over time could lead to harsher penalties.

The APR data does not include date from the 2009-10 academic performances of teams in the study, but instead uses the four-year data from the 2005-06 to 2008-09 academic years.

There were only three women’s teams (5 percent) that did not receive a score of 925 or more on the NCAA’s APR. By comparison, 10 men’s teams (15 percent) did not receive a score of 925 or more.

Along racial lines, the men’s teams show a current gap of 32 percent between the graduation rate of white players (91 percent) and black players (59 percent). For women’s teams, 92 percent of white players graduate, compared to 84 percent of black players, or a gap of just 8 percent.

Lapchick said the fact that jumping early to the professional ranks isn’t as prevalent on the women’s side should help them continue to improve their graduate rates and close the racial gap.

“Again, I think that on the women’s side, paying attention to these things has been a tradition,” Lapchick said. “When college football went up to 15 head coaches of color, that had not been the tradition. But women have always had positive academic success stories. … Not that we don’t watch (racial disparity) for them as well, but we’re confident that success of females will continue into the foreseeable future.”

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