ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Women competing in this year's NCAA Tournament continue to graduate at a higher rate than their male counterparts, according to an annual study released Tuesday.
The report by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport shows athletes on teams selected for the women's tournament have a graduation rate of 88 percent, compared to 75 percent for men's tournament teams.
Both tournaments have only one team each that failed to meet the NCAA's standard of averaging a 50 percent graduation rate over a four-year period.
Study author Richard Lapchick noted concern after seeing the disparity gap between white and African-American female athletes grow to 12 percentage points, up from 5 percentage points in 2014. The disparity between white and African-American athletes on men's tournament teams was 24 percentage points for the second consecutive year.
''My hope is that it's an anomaly, but I'm very concerned about a jump that's that great,'' Lapchick said. ''That's statistically a very significant number.''
This year marked the first time since 2010 that the disparity among women's tournament teams has reached double-digits. It had steadily decreased since it was 17 percentage points in 2006 and 2007. The gap for men's teams remains at its lowest point since 2011, when it was 32 percentage points.
The Academic Progress Rate was developed by the NCAA in 2004 as a way to improve graduation rates. It is a four-year rolling average of academic performance that takes into account academic eligibility and retention.
The NCAA voted in 2011 to institute stricter APR performance policies, raising the score from 925 to 930, equivalent to a 50 percent graduation rate. Teams that fall below that standard could be subject to penalties, including lost practice time and tournament bans.
For 2014-15, teams had to earn a 930 four-year average APR, or a 940 average over the most recent two years to participate in postseason play. In 2015-16 and beyond, teams must earn a four-year APR of 930 to qualify for postseason tournaments.
This year Coastal Carolina (910) was the only team in the men's tournament field and Savannah State (853) the only team in the women's tourney to fall below 930. In 2014, seven teams fell below 925, compared with three teams in 2013.
Lapchick said he would like to see the NCAA include a racial disparity factor in the APR to encourage schools to improve what he said continue to be ''unacceptable'' disparities between white and African-American athletes.
''Good things don't happen because they are right, good things happen because sanctions are imposed and people are moved by those sanctions,'' Lapchick said. ''It's time for the NCAA to change not only the APR (standard), but other factors. If the disparity gap doesn't continue to go down, there should be sanctions for like there are for other things currently.''
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