If the college football national championship playoffs were based on how many student-athletes graduate, the University of Central Florida Knights would be one of the teams competing for the trophy, according to an academic success study released Monday.

UCF’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport examined NCAA records showing the Graduation Success Rate (GSR) of each of the 80 schools that will play in bowl games over the next few weeks. The results, reported in “Keeping Score When It Counts: Assessing the Academic Records of the 2016-2017 Bowl-bound College Football Teams,” show that UCF’s football GSR is 91 percent. That ranks second in the nation among public institutions and seventh among all FBS schools.

A GSR-based football championship would put Stanford, South Carolina, Northwestern, UCF and Wake Forest (tied with UCF) in the playoffs. In a column written for ESPN, Richard Lapchick, director of the UCF institute and the primary author of the study, pointed to UCF as an example of how success both on the field and in the classroom are possible when academics are made a priority.

When UCF played in its first bowl game in 2005, its football graduation rate was at the bottom of the list in Lapchick’s annual report. Now it is consistently near the top. UCF’s overall GSR – including other sports – is even higher: At 93 percent, the Knights are first in the nation among public institutions in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

“When I see programs struggling with academics and hear fans, boosters, and the media say, ‘this school will never win and do it right academically,’ I tell them I have lived through the storm to see what can be accomplished with great leadership,” Lapchick wrote.

UCF will play Arkansas State in the Cure Bowl on Dec. 17.

The annual report is meant to highlight academic progress in college athletics. This year, the institute noted that academic success of football student-athletes continues an upward trend, with the average GSR for bowl-bound teams at 75 percent this year, up from 73 percent in 2015.

At the same time, the gap between white and African American football players continues, standing at 19 percent this year. Among the 80 bowl-bound teams, the average GSR for African American players was 68 percent, compared to 87 percent for white players.

The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport serves as a comprehensive resource for issues related to gender and race in amateur, collegiate and professional sport. The Institute researches and publishes a variety of studies, including annual studies of student-athlete graduation rates and racial attitudes in sport as well as the internationally recognized Racial and Gender Report Card, an assessment of hiring practices in professional and college sport. The Institute also monitors some of the critical ethical issues in college and professional sport, including the potential for exploitation of student-athletes, gambling, performance-enhancing drugs and violence in sport. The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport is part of the DeVos Sport Business Management Graduate Program in the University of Central Florida’s College of Business Administration.