ORLANDO, Fla. -- Players on teams headed to the NCAA women's tournament are graduating at a higher rate than those in the men's field, a study released Tuesday showed.
An annual report by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida also found that the graduation gap between white and black players is smaller among women than men.
There were 19 women's teams that had a 100 percent graduation rate compared to six men's teams. And 51 women's teams graduated at least 70 percent of their players compared to 29 men's teams.
Richard Lapchick, director of the institute, said overall graduation rates for men and women have continued to increase at a similar pace, so the disparity is not that alarming.
"For me, it's not as worrying as the gap between black and white," Lapchick said. "The gap between black and white, for me, is a continuation of a historical pattern that dates back to segregation when everybody was not afforded the same opportunities. In this case, women have turned the tables on past inequality and are getting recognized."
NCAA spokesman Chuck Wynne said the collegiate sports governing body was "extremely proud" of the increasing graduation rates for women but did not address specifics about the gender or racial gaps.
"From baseline to baseline, our game continues to get better even as our student-athletes continue to excel academically," Wynne said in a statement. "It's a tribute to our student-athletes and coaches who work so hard to make it happen."
Looking at just the women's tournament, the report found that 50 teams graduated at least 70 percent of their white players, but only 40 teams graduated that same percentage of black players. That makes for a 14 percent gap; the men had a 48 percent disparity in the same category.
Lapchick said the pull of the NBA and international men's basketball leagues have put the emphasis on playing professionally and have taken the focus away from education.
"There's that belief that so many men have had since they were boys that they would play in the NBA, Europe or somewhere else professionally," he said. "There is a culture in men's sports that focuses on playing professionally. The women's game has historically had more emphasis on education" because going pro was less of an option.
Jarrod Chin, director of violence prevention and diversity at Northeastern University's Sport in Society, said the gender gap is a social issue that goes beyond athletics.
"The educational gender gap has been increasing not only in sports, but overall," Chin said. "We tend to think of women as more book smart, so we value education more with them. Men, unfortunately, we value athleticism more. So we don't place as much emphasis on education."
The report measures six-year graduation rates for the freshman classes that entered college from the 1999-2000 through the 2002-03 school years. The report relies on information provided by the NCAA and not federal graduation rates, which don't account for transfer students.