The NCAA and college sports reformers have set 50 percent as the magic mark -- the minimum acceptable proportion of a team's athletes who should graduate within six years. By that standard, almost two-thirds of the squads in this year's NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament are falling short, according to a study released  Monday by the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics.
The Knight panel, which since 1989 has been pushing changes aimed at restoring integrity to big-time college sports, has proposed that teams be disqualified from NCAA championship play if they failed to graduate at least half of their athletes within six years of enrolling.
The panel's study found that 42 of the 65 teams that qualified for this year's tournament would fail to meet that standard, based on the latest four-year graduation rates submitted by the institutions -- and many fared much worse. Twenty of the 65 graduated less than 30 percent of their players, and 11 of 65 graduated less than 20 percent.
NCAA officials have adopted a new set of academic standards  that will, for the first time, penalize colleges that fail to keep athletes on track toward a degree. The association's plan focuses not on graduation rates but on an Academic Progress Rate that could strip scholarships from teams if players do not return from semester to semester in good academic standing.
The report released Monday by the Knight panel notes that 11 of the 65 teams in the men's tournament this year would be at risk of losing a scholarship if the new NCAA rules were in effect.