ORLANDO, Fla. — The number of black athletes getting diplomas across all NCAA Division I sports jumped 24 percentage points from 1984 to 2004, marking big gains for a demographic that once recorded just 35 percent graduation success, according to a study released Thursday.

Black athletes were at least 15 percent more likely to graduate if they entered college in 1998 instead of 1984, according to the report by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport.

Female black athletes remained more successful than males, graduating 73 percent of the time compared with 54 percent for men. The same was true of whites, with 73 percent of women and 66 percent of men graduating.

Graduation success for all whites still outpaced black athletes 66 percent to 52 percent, according to federal graduation rates cited in the study.

"Certainly, the data is trending in the right direction," NCAA spokesman Bob Williams said. "The increases for all African-American student athletes were between 15 and 18 percent, and that's good, but that doesn't mean the job's over."

The percentage improvements for black athletes from 1984 until 2004 were calculated using the NCAA's new graduation success rates — considered more accurate than federal numbers because they include transfer students. By that standard, 59 percent of black athletes got their diplomas in the latest year. No NCAA data for white athletes was included in the study.