The University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport said in its report this week that eight teams that made the 2014 men's bracket fall below the NCAA-mandated Academic Progress Rate score of 930, equivalent to a 50 percent graduation rate. Last year six teams didn't reach that benchmark.
An annual study of the schools in the men's NCAA tournament shows a slight increase in teams that fall below graduation rate standards.
Study author Richard Lapchick said while academic reforms overall have led to positive change, he urged tougher measures. He would like to see the NCAA's four-year standard raised to a graduation rate equivalent to 60 percent.
This year 88 percent of the teams in the men's tournament currently graduate at least 60 percent of their players.
Currently, teams scoring below a 925 APR can lose up to 10 percent of their scholarships. Teams can also be subject to penalties for poor academic performance over time.
Teams in this year's field that would be subject to NCAA-imposed sanctions that could keep them from postseason play are: Cal Poly (925), Coastal Carolina (921), North Carolina Central (903), Oklahoma State (928), Providence (915), Texas Southern (900), Connecticut (897) and Oregon (918).
Beginning with 2012-13 championships, teams must earn a minimum 900 four-year APR or a 930 average over the most recent two years to be eligible for NCAA championships.
In 2014, seven teams fell below 925, compared with three teams in 2013. The APR was developed by the NCAA in 2004 as a way to improve graduation rates. It is a four-year rolling average of academic performance that takes into account academic eligibility and retention.
Connecticut is back in the field following a one-year NCAA tournament ban last year after failing to meet APR minimums. UConn was one of 10 schools barred from last year's postseason.
"The loss of scholarships and being banned from postseason play is the thing coaches dread most," Lapchick said. "I was glad to see UConn made such a good improvement. I can't attribute it all to (the tournament ban), but I'm sure they're going to do everything in their power to put students on campus that can have the greatest success academically."
UConn said in October it will report a perfect APR of 1,000 for the 2012-13 school year.
The NCAA recently voted to institute stricter policies with regards to APR performance and postseason participation. The new legislation will require teams to have a four-year APR above 930 to qualify for postseason participation the following year.
For 2014-15, teams must earn a 930 four-year average APR or a 940 average over the most recent two years to participate in championships. In 2015-16 and beyond, teams must earn a four-year APR of 930.
This year's study again noted the wide disparity between the Graduation Success Rates between white and African-American players on this year's NCAA tournament teams.
The GSR numbers for white players decreased slightly from 90 percent in 2013 to 89 percent in 2014. For African-American players it remained the same from 2013 to 2014 at 65 percent.
Lapchick also called it "unacceptable" that 38 percent of tournament teams had a GSR disparity this year greater than 30 percent between white and African-American players, and 47 percent with a disparity greater than 20 percent.
He wants the NCAA to impose penalties for historically poor GSR racial disparities, as it does for consistently bad APR scores.
"This is what I've been pointing out in football studies for a decade," he said. "I think it is one thing that should be part of APR. If they are at one of those schools with 30 percent disparities, at some point (penalties) should be invoked."
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Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.