Nun's Devotion Inspires Xavier Basketball Team

"You look at a place like Xavier, they have an academic adviser, a nun who's been with the team for about two decades, and they've graduated 100 percent of their players [who play as seniors] for years, so this is not rocket science. This is about saying we value our students athletes as students first," said Duncan, a former college basketball star at Harvard.

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In an interview with ABC News, Duncan was especially critical of the disparity in graduation rates at many of the colleges in the NCAA tournament. The UCF study found that 100 percent of Kentucky's white players graduated, but only 18 percent of its African-American players.

Not a single black player at Maryland got his diploma in the period studied (Coach Gary Williams says the team's graduation record has since improved.) Xavier's 89 percent graduation rate is the same for its African-American players.

The fact that Xavier is one of the elite teams playing in this year's men's tournament is seen as proof that rigorous academic standards can co-exist with athletic excellence. Six colleges in the tournament, including Notre Dame and Wake Forest, graduated 100 percent of their players.

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"We want out athletic program to be excellent," Fleming says. "At the same time, we keep an eye on the total demands of the university, we cannot ignore the role of academics in the life of a student-athlete."

In its first round game Friday, Xavier beat the University of Minnesota, 65-54. Xavier will take on the University of Pittsburgh in its second round match-up Sunday.

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