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A maddening trend

Grad rate of many tourney teams woefully low

In 2001, the Knight Commission, in its recommendations for reforming college athletics, said, "By 2007, teams that do not graduate at least 50 percent of their players should not be eligible for conference championships or for postseason play."

It is now 2007. March Madness still has a maddening underbelly. Of the 33 first-round games in the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament, 23 should not be played in my annual look at graduation rates.

The 23 games are corrupted by at least one team with either an overall Graduation Success Rate of less than 50 percent and/or a black player graduation rate of less than 50 percent. Thirty of the 65 teams have one or both problems, (Division 1 men's basketball is 63 percent black in scholarship athletes).

Local congratulations go to Holy Cross and Boston College, which have respective black graduation rates of 100 percent and 80 percent. Defending national champion Florida plays ball on and off the court with a 100 percent graduation rate.

But racial disparities of the top teams are a national embarrassment. The average black graduation rate of the top five teams in the Associated Press poll -- Ohio State, Kansas, Wisconsin, UCLA, and Memphis -- is only 32 percent. That is 55 percentage points lower than the 87 percent graduation rate for white players. That is more than double the already-dubious 25 percentage-point graduation gap for all of Division 1 men's basketball (51 percent for black players, 76 percent for white players).

The graduation gap of the top 16-seeded teams in the tournament -- minus Florida -- is 41 percentage points (43 percent average of black players, 84 percent average for white players).

The NCAA's 2006 Graduation Success Rate covers scholarship athletes who entered school in either 1996-97, 1997-98, 1998-99 or 1999-2000 and graduated within six years. The NCAA now lets schools take credit for transfers who graduate from their school and does not penalize them for early departures as long as they left in good academic standing.

Here's a look at how the bracket would break down if it were determined by the graduation rates of black players (number after the team is the graduation rate).

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