A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, March 22, 2010

Banning basketball teams from post-season play for lacking enough students

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, former professional basketball player in Australia, has suggested that NCAA men's basketball team that do not graduate at least 40% of their players should be banned from post-season play. From the New York Daily News: (And here's a link to his actual statement.)
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is urging the NCAA to ban from the Big Dance teams from schools that fail to graduate 40% of their basketball players. That's the right call.

According to a study released this week, 12 of the 64 schools in this year's tournament fail to meet that minimal benchmark - and many have an even more abysmal record on helping black players toward degrees.

At Maryland, No. 4 Midwest seed, just 8% of players graduate. Among black players, the number is a beyond-scandalous 0%.

At Baylor, No. 3 seed in the South regional, 36% graduate. Among black players, just 29%.

At Kentucky, many people's pick - including President Obama's - to get to the Final Four, 31% graduate. Among black players, just 18%.

With numbers like those, Kentucky wouldn't be in the tourney at all, if the President's own secretary of education has his way. And he should. These programs owe their players far better.

An institution of higher education's job is to prepare young people for the global workforce, not the neighborhood playground.

Yet, as NAACP President Benjamin Jealous pointed out in joining Duncan yesterday, the likes of Maryland (0% black basketball player graduation rate) and California (0%) and UNLV (13%) appear happy to exploit talented young people to generate a month-long bonanza of ratings and school spirit and revenue - but care far less that they complete their educations.

Some schools get it right. Marquette graduates all its white and black basketball players. So do Notre Dame and Wake Forest.

But others, to use Duncan's term, "use and dump" players. The result is that a tiny fraction make the NBA - and hundreds leave school without the skills necessary to build careers.

So turn on the tournament. Enjoy the upsets and last-second finishes. Good luck in your office pool. And just think, for a minute, about what happens to the kids when they leave the court.

Some go on to great things; others get hung out to dry. It doesn't have to be that way.

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinions/2010/03/18/2010-03-18_march_sanity.html#ixzz0ikfGpg5H

I read an article which included responses from some of the coaches who might suffer the most under this policy. One of my favorite responses by a coach BLAMED SECONDARY SCHOOLS in this country for the problem. Look, pal, you're the one who offered a college scholarship to a kid who was obviously unqualified to actually be a student on your campus, and you didn't care. All you wanted to do was win. This attitude would be fine if this was the minor leagues of the NBA and the athletes were getting paid. But that's not how it works. The NBA is spared the expense of running a developmental league on its own dime, and so they're happy. But colleges are, first of all, schools, and they should seek to accept the students who will actually be able to attend class and benefit from that experience by being able to earn a degree.

But it's not just college coaches who have things backwards. Someone I know was given a permission slip for a tournament by a student who was failing his class horribly. The teacher has a public policy of not signing permission slips for students who are failing. Now let's remember that usually it doesn't seem to matter what policies teachers actually have if they are inconvenient, and the teacher figured that probably the student would go to the tournament anyway. Instead, my colleague got a long email fusillade from this student's track coach, vehemently attacking him for denying this student a "chance at a college scholarship."

Let's get real: with a GPA of 1.5-- the required (and horrifyingly low) GPA to participate in sporting activities in the area-- and with the student failing not one but TWO classes required for graduation, the idea of a college scholarship at all seemed about as unlikely being struck on the head by a meteorite. What the coach was probably really mad about was that, if his athlete didn't go to the tournament, the coach might not have as many chances to win.

Did the coach care that the athlete was failing? Did the coach care that the student obviously wasn't preparing himself for this hypothetical college scholarship to be put to good use? No. And that is a real travesty.

So Secretary Duncan's proposal is a small but significant step in the right direction. Of course he's spitting into the wind of the money tree that is March Madness, but give him points for trying on this issue.

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At 3/22/10, 6:09 AM, Anonymous Chris Osborne said...

Ok, on the surface I like the idea. Make players graduate, who's going to complain about people graduating from college?

Here's where it gets tricky. Let's take a look at Kentucky. If John Wall didn't have to go to college before joining the NBA, he wouldn't be in college right now. Is he going to count against Kentucky since he won't graduate? What about any other player who decided to leave the team to go pro?

I know that 40% is less than half. That's roughly 4-8 players. But as far as I know, there is no roster limit for the NCAA. Which means teams could have people on the team for the sole purpose of boosting graduation rates.

You've also got people who take the extra year and graduate after their college career is over.Are they going to count against the team since they didn't graduate the year they finished playing?

Really, the problem isn't just with the schools, it's with the NBA rule that says you have to be away from high school for a year. Because of that you've got kids going to college who wouldn't even think about it if they could go straight to the NBA.

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At 3/22/10, 8:29 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Well, I am not too sure that I agree with the NBA's rule, because I think it encourages players to use college as a (frustrating) farm system for the NBA.

It takes lots of students longer than the once-expected four years to graduate (and how many of you have John Belushi saying "Seven years of college down the drain!" playing through your head right now?)

I do think it should be okay if it takes players five years to graduate-- but would that mean that the school would still support their players through scholarships once they've used up their eligibility? Because that would be the stand-up thing to do.

But once again, if the NBA wants a developmental league, they should support it themselves instead of maintaining the farce that some of these players are actually "students." Just being on a college campus doesn't help you any more than just walking by a doctor's office makes you well when you are ill.

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