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Racial graduation gap persists for NCAA tournament teams, study finds

Cassandra Negley
·3-min read

A significant graduation gap still exists between white and Black basketball players of both genders playing in the NCAA tournament this year, according to a report by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida released on Tuesday.

TIDES looked at the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) for teams in the two NCAA tournament brackets and found a larger gap on the men's side.

Graduation gap stark on men's side

The study found that white male student-athletes are graduating at a rate 13.5 percentage points higher than their Black male counterparts. White players had a GSR of 93.8% on average, while Black players had a 80.3% GSR.

On the women's side, white players had a graduation rate of 97.9% to Black players graduation rate of 91.8%.

“The thing that has bothered us for the 20 years that we have been doing this is the gap between Black student-athletes and white student-athletes both in men’s and women’s sports,” TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the lead author of the report, said via the Associated Press. “It’s narrower than it was 20 years ago but it is still persistent. It barely changed at all this year compared to last year."

In this year's men's tournament field, 92.5% of teams graduated 70% or more of their white players. Only 75% of the teams hit the same mark of Black graduates. In the women's tournament, 98.2% of teams graduated 70% of more of their white players and 91.9% of teams graduated 70% of more of their Black players.

Lapchick said to close the gap, more needs to be done in terms of resources at the primary, middle school and secondary school level in urban areas. Many students in those areas don't have the same high-level resources as students in the suburbs, which are typically comprised of wealthier households.

Women's teams continue to graduate more players

The study also continued to show a gap between women's basketball players graduating and men's players graduating. Women on teams in the NCAA tournament graduated at a rate of 93.1%, per the study, whereas men graduated at a rate of 82.4%.

That rate for men is a drop of 0.4 percentage points from 2020, when the study used numbers from the teams projected to make the tournaments.

Of all the 64 teams in the tournament, 12 women's teams had a perfect Academic Progress Rate score of 1000. It is a team-based metric taking into account the eligibility and retention of each athlete for each academic term.

There were 27 women's teams with a 100% graduation rate and only 11 men's teams.

TIDES found Gonzaga and Michigan are still doing the best at graduating players. Both schools had a 100% graduation rate on both men's and women's teams this year. Lapchick said they have both hit that mark continuously over the years.

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