College Basketball Graduate Rates Tumble, Government Gets Involved

Mike KlineAnalyst IMarch 17, 2010

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 14:  John Wall #11 of the Kentucky Wildcats celebrates with his teammates after they won 75-74 in overtime against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the final of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at the Bridgestone Arena on March 14, 2010 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

If U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan had his way, 12 of the 64 NCAA Tournament teams would not be dancing.

That would mean teams like Kentucky, Maryland, Louisville, and California would not be playing this week because they don't graduate enough of their players.

And while I would tend to agree that something should be done to ensure the academic integrity of college sports, I'm not sure his proposal would work.

At least as he puts it out.

For one, it aims to ban teams from participating if their schools fail to graduate 40 percent of their players. He calls 40 a low bar number and I couldn't agree more, but it is the time frame that I have a problem with.

For one, he calls for the ban to take place based on graduation rates over a six-year period.

That doesn't do much to punish the "student" athletes who aren't fulfilling their responsibilities prior to the ban. Instead it punishes the current group that may actually be attending classes on a regular basis and who may graduate.

What any policy should also figure in is that schools and teams shouldn't necessarily be punished for students that transfer or leave school early. You can't blame the school for the kids’ decision.

The issue of one and done players is a debate in and of itself, but there is no doubt that a majority of those athletes aren't interested in being a student to begin with.

It has been a dilemma facing college athletics for quite some time. After all, these players are supposed to be students first.

However, no one looks at them that way anymore. It used to be customary for TV broadcasts to publish majors and areas of concentration under player’s names along with basic stats.

You just don't see that anymore. The graphic designers probably got tired of typing undecided or sports marketing.

College sports, especially the NCAA Tournament, have become all about money. The days of pure amateurism are over.

Even Duncan's boss, President Obama, was proudly filling out his brackets like thousands of other Americans, except he did his with ESPN's Andy Katz.

I agree with Duncan that schools and players who fail to meet their academic responsibilities need some kind of punishment, but who is to decide what is fair?

If we really want to fix the problem of graduation rates, and close the gap between black and white students, we need to start way before college.

Once those "students" are there, that is where the NCAA comes in. 

Perhaps penalizing coaches for not fulling investigating recruits who have suspect academic qualifications. They should at least be accountable if players they recruit have someone else take their SAT.

Perhaps they should keep better tabs beyond first semester grades so the one and done players don't just skip out of classes once their required passing grades are achieved in December.

While I salute the secretary's position, I doubt the NCAA is interested though since they haven't done anything about these problems yet.

And I certainly don't want the government meddling in college sports when we have an economy in shambles and two wars going on.

So, yes Mr. Secretary you have a point, but let’s not rush into something until we think it through and have a reasonable solution and someone who will actually do something about it.

I just don’t know what or who that is, but if I did I'd be a rich man.