ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) Men's and women's basketball teams in this year's Sweet 16 are graduating more players and experiencing all-time high academic success.
The programs still alive in the NCAA Tournament are enjoying the best academic success since The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport on the University of Central Florida campus has been tracking the numbers, according to a study it released Wednesday.
This year, 15 of the 16 men's teams, and all of the women's teams, that made it to the Sweet 16 have an Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 960 or better.
These programs are also graduating their players at a higher rate, with 81 percent of the men and 100 percent of the women holding a Graduation Success Rate (GRS) of at least 60 percent. These numbers either equal or surpass all-time highs for this particular TIDES study, which has been in existence since 2003.
''There was a time when the top schools in the national rankings had the lowest graduation rates because they were cutting corners and taking student athletes who never had a chance of graduating,'' said Richard Lapchick, the primary author of the study. ''The fact that the top teams now do so much better academically is testament to the fact the reforms actually work.''
In this year's study taken from spring of 2016 numbers, eight of the women's teams and seven of the men's programs graduated above 90 percent of their student-athletes, and two men's teams and six on the women's side hit 100 percent. Butler and Kansas were the two men's programs with 100 percent graduation rates.
A year ago, there were five women's programs and four men's teams in the NCAA Regional semifinals with 100 percent graduation rates. The women saw an increase of one, while the men's side dropped by two.
''It's the best that we have had in all the time we've been doing this,'' Lapchick said. ''Last year was the best and this year was better than last year.''
Not all the numbers in the study, however, were positive.
The GRS for African-American males dropped 2 percentage points to 77 percent, while white male graduation rates improved 6 percentage points to 95 percent among the schools in the upcoming Sweet 16. That is a jump from a 10 percent gap in 2016 to 18 percent this year.
On the women's side, white players are graduating at a 95 percent rate, compared with 88 percent for African American women, marking the second year in a row that the gap has remained at 7 percent.
That is consistent with numbers TIDES released in its overall NCAA Tournament study last week. That report also showed a decline in the graduation success rate of African-American men from the 68 participating schools.
''It says to me,'' Lapchick said, ''that we are still not paying enough attention to making sure that students that we recruit are up to the academic standards of the university, or that we have a capacity to raise them the academic standards at the university so that they can succeed academically.''
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