Athletes at historically black colleges and universities are closing the gap in the classroom, according to the latest academic report from the Indianapolis-based NCAA.
On Thursday, the NCAA's newest Academic Progress Rate showed that single-year scores at HBCUs had climbed to 962 — a 34-point increase over the last five years and significantly higher than the five-point increase seen at other schools in the same span.
"We've seen a remarkable evolutionary shift in Division I over the last 14 years," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. "Administrators, coaches and students all make academic achievement and graduation top focus areas. The APR is a powerful metric that leads ultimately to more graduates and more student-athletes with better opportunities after college."
Lower-resource HBCU schools have traditionally produced lower scores. In recent years, the NCAA has tried to step in and provide additional help — and it appears to be working.
While the four-year rate for all college athletes increased two points, to a record 983, the HBCUs are improving more quickly year to year.
Scores are calculated by giving each player on each team one point per semester for remaining academically eligible and another point each semester if they remain in school or graduate. A perfect score is 1,000. This year's numbers cover the 2013-17 academic years.
Critics have questioned whether the rate truly portrays an accurate level of academic success. But the NCAA points to another number in the latest report: The number of schools facing postseason bans for consistently poor scores was cut nearly in half.
Seventeen teams faced bans in 2017. This year, nine were sanctioned and only Alabama A&M had more than one team on the list.
The Bulldogs will be ineligible for postseason play in men's basketball, men's golf, men's track and field, and women's cross country. The other programs that will be left out of postseason play are Gardner-Webb in men's track and field, Grambling in softball, Mississippi Valley in baseball, Morgan State in football and Wright State in men's tennis.
All those schools, except Gardner-Webb and Wright State, are HBCUs.
The four-year rates for baseball (975), football (964) and women's basketball (982) each increased two points while the score for men's basketball went up one point to 967.
It's the 13th consecutive year the overall four-year number was a record. The NCAA has been tracking scores for 14 years.