Teams headed for the five major bowls this season performed better academically on the whole than the national average, according to a study released Monday.
At these top programs, however, the disparity between black and white graduation rates grows by nearly double.
The nation's best teams are generally improving in the classroom, according to an analysis by Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.
Of the 64 teams invited to bowls, 86 percent graduated at least half their players. And 40 of this year's top programs, or 62 percent, matched or beat the NCAA's new Academic Progress Rate standard, which is intended to more accurately gauge grades and graduation rates.
The statistics Lapchick used are preliminary and don't include the most recent school year.
White athletes in the five Bowl Championship Series games beat their counterparts among the 119 NCAA Division I-A schools by graduating 81 percent of the time, compared with 62 percent division-wide. The black athlete graduation rate was 56 percent among those schools, also better than the 49 percent overall rate.
But the 25-percentage point discrepancy between white and black players' graduation rates for top bowl teams was nearly twice the 13-point divide within the NCAA average.
Unbeaten Ohio State was next-to-last in black academics. The Buckeyes graduated 32 percent of black players, better only than Georgia (24 percent) among the 64 bowl teams. Ohio State has an 80 percent overall graduation rate for athletes, 85 percent for white football players.