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ORLANDO, Fla. – The disparity in graduation rates for white and black players on NCAA tournament-bound men’s basketball teams grew this year, according to a study released Monday.

The annual report by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida found 45 teams graduated 70 percent or more of their white players, up from 33 teams last year. But only 20 teams graduated at least 70 percent of their black players, the same as last year.

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Richard Lapchick, the director of the institute, said the expanding gap is one of higher education’s greatest failures.

“The most disturbing thing to me is that the gap continues to widen even though the graduation rates of African-American basketball student-athletes are increasing,” he said.

The study noted that graduation rates for black basketball players are 18 percent higher than for male black students who are not athletes.

“Although we would like to see even greater progress than is being made, we are seeing significant improvement every year,” NCAA spokesman Erik Christianson said in a statement. “The fact remains that intercollegiate athletics is doing a better job on average of closing the graduation success gap between white and African-American male student-athletes than any other component of higher education.”

The differences among the four No. 1 seeds in the tournament — Kansas, Kentucky, Duke and Syracuse — were just as stark.

Duke led the top seeds with a 92 percent graduation success rate. Kansas followed at 73 percent, Syracuse at 55 percent and Kentucky at 31 percent.

BYU, Marquette, Notre Dame, Utah State, Wake Forest and Wofford were the only teams with 100 percent graduation rates.

The five lowest graduation rates were Maryland (8 percent), California (20 percent), Washington (29 percent), Arkansas Pine Bluff (29 percent) and Tennessee (30 percent).

“Schools with 40 percent or lower graduation rates are almost overwhelmingly BCS schools,” Lapchick said. “It makes you wonder where the focus is.”

The report relies on information provided by the NCAA. It uses graduation success rates and not federal graduation rates, which don’t account for transfer students. The numbers measure six-year graduation rates for the freshman classes that entered college from the 1999-2000 through 2002-03 school years.

Dave Czesniuk, director of operations for Northeastern University’s Sport in Society, said the widening gap between whites and blacks is usually because of the expectations schools and athletes place on education.

“Regardless of race, if education is the most dominant important factor, you will usually see a higher graduation rate,” he said.

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