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Duncan wants March Madness ban for teams with low grad rates

By Ed O'Keefe

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.

Arne Duncan
Education Secretary Arne Duncan. (AP)

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."

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | March 17, 2010; 3:27 PM ET
Categories:  Administration, Agencies and Departments  
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Comments

Secretary Duncan, Gary Williams is on the phone, line one...

Posted by: jcbcmb68 | March 17, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Why does government feel the need to get involved in this?

Posted by: wpjunk | March 17, 2010 4:17 PM | Report abuse

The government can't enforce it - he's asking the NCAA to do so. And I agree that they should.

Posted by: EinDC | March 17, 2010 4:43 PM | Report abuse

What a waste. Children are dying and this is what our Secretary is worried about? Sick.

Posted by: corrections | March 17, 2010 5:05 PM | Report abuse

This is just dumb because the numbers include players who left school early to go to the NBA as not graduating. If any college student could leave school to make a million dollars in their chosen profession, how many would stay and get their degree? Not many, and one can always return to school and get a degree. That doesn't excuse, for instance, the incredibly low figures for Maryland, but it does mean such figures can't be used as some kind of absolute standard.

Posted by: TheFingerman | March 17, 2010 5:58 PM | Report abuse

This is one time I'll disagree with Arne Duncan. Unless he clarifies that is is 4 year students only, the stat is completely bogus. As noted in the story (and from recollection), the stat ignores early departure to NBA, transfers, and I also believe withdrawal from the program. Especially for the aspiring NBA/pro-player, there is no way a coach or school can force them to stay until they graduate. Now if the NBA changed their rule to 4 years before joining, that would be different, but that will never happen.

Posted by: lamaccountant1 | March 17, 2010 6:18 PM | Report abuse

>What a waste. Children are dying and this is what our Secretary is worried about? Sick.

I assume this is sarcasm, etc. but if it is sincere it is pretty pathetic. I would like to know where the children who are dying are, and how the Secretary of Education might remedy this situation. Frankly, given the enormous amount of public funds given to public institutions (even if I think they may merit more...), I think it is a very good thing for the Education Secretary to express some concern about this issue. And, miraculously, many people are in fact able to give attention to more than one issue at a time! So even if there are dying children the Secretary should be attending too, my guess is he will be able to squeeze that onto his agenda, too.

The article seems poorly written to me on the point of whether or not players who leave early for the NBA are or are not included. The first part of the sentence, "The study's formula does not include student athletes who transfer elsewhere or who leave early to join the National Basketball Association" seems to imply to me that such students are...well, as it says, NOT included. But the second clause, "but it does account for athletes who will play in the tournament" confuses things a bit by using the words "but" and "account". Does that imply the first clause actually means that the formula does not ACCOUNT for such students? In any case, it seems a no-brainer that such players would/should be discluded from the assesment and doesn't seem to be the core issue Duncan is after.

Posted by: jlord | March 17, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Who cares?

Posted by: fireball72 | March 17, 2010 10:56 PM | Report abuse

I am sure the government is concerned over education, and education is important, this i do not disagree on. But as a high school student about to graduate and hopefully enter college, I must say that sometimes tradition over rules education. Honestly, why is the government even worrying about this? Don't we already have a large amount of debt, high unemployment rates, and a down falling economy? Shouldn't the government be more worried about the overwhelming curriculum they have already put on their students? And let me say I receive no more than 5 hours of sleep a night due to my rigorous course of study. Honestly, the government has more things to worry about than March Madness... so leave the tradition alone and actually focus on something important.

Posted by: ladisasterejp | March 17, 2010 11:13 PM | Report abuse

When Washington runs out of room to house all of these new government bureaucrats, where will hey be housed? Cook County? Some unoccupied prison building ... also in Illinois....hmmmmmmmmmm!...Guantanamo?....how about downtown Manhattan?

....at least the banks kept a lot of folks on the PRIVATE...NOT THE PUBLIC....payroll.

Arne, just do your job.
Thanks.

Posted by: connyankee1 | March 18, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

I am getting sick of these government types thinking they know best for us. If we do not stop this regulation of our daily lives we will end up not having any freedom of choice at all. The government should do for the people what the people can not do for themselves and leave the rest of it alone.

Posted by: Philwamock | March 18, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

College sports have long been the tail wagging the dog, so the biggest question should be why previous Secretaries of Education failed so miserably to address the issue.

The challenge of staying true to academics is important for the institutions, the athletes, and the kids for whom athletes are role models. The Secretary's idea should be a slam dun(can).

While we're at it, in the high school and college context let's use the term "scholar athletes" instead of just "athletes" for all NCAA players to remind all that colleges enjoy their statuses as public and non-profit institutions because of the public good they create, not because they are sports camps for future NBA / NFL entertainers.

Lyon Village, VA

Posted by: dkbain1 | March 18, 2010 3:30 PM | Report abuse

It is clear that some just want them to play sports and could care less about education, 40% is too low, it should be 90% or nothing...

Posted by: edmundsingleton1 | March 19, 2010 4:19 AM | Report abuse

Given Arne Duncan's demonstrated lack of success in improving the Chicago public school system, why does he have his current position?

OOoh, wait, it's because he plays BASKETBALL witht the Prez.

Posted by: sanderling5 | March 19, 2010 9:26 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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