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December 3, 2012

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Academic progress high for bowl-bound teams

ORLANDO, Fla. — A study of the 70 schools selected for college football bowl games this season showed football teams maintained high recent academic progress, but the gap between African-American and white players persists.

The annual report released Monday by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport showed overall Graduation Success Rate improvement from 68 to 69 percent for football players at the bowl-bound schools.

Also, 97 percent of schools received a score higher than the target 925 (equal to an expected graduation rate of 50 percent) on the NCAA's Academic Progress Rate. Teams with a four-year APR of 925 or below face penalties including loss of scholarships. A new APR standard of 930 started to take effect for the 2012-13 academic year, though it won't be fully in place until 2014-15.

Primary study author Richard Lapchick said he thinks the recent awareness raised by Education Secretary Arne Duncan and NAACP President Ben Jealous has been instrumental in pushing schools to make academic progress by athletes a priority.

"I think the threat of the loss of scholarships has great meaning for coaches today," Lapchick said. "Even with football teams being so much bigger than in basketball, coaches want to protect those slots. They have become more engaged themselves and are getting the resources into academic affairs to get students who maybe weren't as engaged in high school to be more successful at their universities."

This year's numbers show a 20 percentage point gap between the graduation rate of white and African-American athletes, 82 percent to 62 percent. The numbers were 81 and 61 percent last year. But Lapchick is encouraged that the rate for African-American athletes has risen consistently recently.

As recently as 2009, those rates were 58 percent for African-American and 77 percent for white athletes.

"There are a few perspectives on that gap," Lapchick said. "Graduation rates have significantly gone up annually a few points each year, and that's the good news."

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