ORLANDO, Fla.—The disparity between graduation rates for white and black players at schools headed to bowl games grew again this year even as overall academic progress increased for both, a study released Monday found.
The annual report by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport found that the graduation success rate is increasing at a higher rate for white players than black players.
Richard Lapchick, the primary author of the study, said it's a "disturbing" gap that has continued to widen.
"The growing gap is and has been my biggest concern with graduations rates for some time," he said. "It's like in the economy if income for Latinos and African-American grows at 2 percent but increases 3 percent for whites. Yes, it's getting better. But it's still not great for everybody."
The graduation success rate for black players went from 58 percent to 60 percent this year among the 70 bowl teams. But for white players, the graduation rates increased from 77 percent last year to 80 percent this year.
The NCAA was encouraged that all graduation success rates -- not just those for whites or blacks -- increased, and hoped continued improvement for both groups in the future would close the gap.
"With such a large number of students, any increase is important, so this improvement is noteworthy. That improvement extends to African-American football student-athletes as well," NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said in a statement.
Data 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.
Five schools had graduation success rates for black players that exceeded their rates for white players: Northwestern (one percent higher), Virginia Tech (3 percent higher), Southern Mississippi (three percent higher), Notre Dame (four percent higher) and Troy (10 percent higher). That's up from four schools in last year's study.
Notre Dame and Northwestern were the only schools that graduated 95 percent of their players and at least 95 percent of their black players. Air Force and Northwestern had the highest academic progress rate with scores of 988 and 986, respectively.
Texas Tech was the lone school that had overall graduation success rates for football players that were better than the overall athletes. And Oklahoma was the only school that graduated less than 50 percent of its white players.