Duncan wants March Madness ban for teams with low grad rates
Updated 5:55 p.m. ET
Basketball-playing Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants the NCAA to ban colleges and universities with low athlete graduation rates from participating in the annual March Madness college basketball tournament.
Teams with graduation rates of less than 40 percent should be banned from postseason play, Duncan said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. His proposal would keep a dozen teams from playing in this year's tournament, including top-seeded (and Obama Final Four favorite) Kentucky.
"Not that many teams would be ineligible. Over time, I think we should set a higher bar," said Duncan, a former pro basketball player in Australia, who frequently plays pickup games with the president.
Duncan clarified during the call that he hopes his proposal is considered in the future and that it shouldn't prohibit Kentucky from playing in this year's tournament.
"We're trying to prepare students for life, not just to get W's on the court," he said.
Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) raised concerns about graduation rates on Tuesday night during debate on a House resolution honoring the University of Maryland men's basketball team. Campbell noted that the Terrapins' 8 percent graduation rate is the lowest of the 65 teams selected for the tournament.
The 8 percent figure comes from a study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at Central Florida. The study's formula does not include student athletes who transfer elsewhere or who leave early to join the National Basketball Association, but it does account for athletes who will play in the tournament.
Maryland Terrapins Coach Gary Williams disputed the findings and their significance in an interview with The Washington Post.
"Obviously, those years we had players leave early and they're millionaires now, and they're coming back to get their degrees, just like other guys have come back and gotten their degrees," Williams said. "Plus we've graduated, let's see, I think it's 10 out of 12 and most recently of our seniors, we'll graduate all four of our seniors this year. Our academic support system has completely changed since 1999-2003. That is ancient facts, and you know it."
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