March 17th, 2011
07:12 PM ET
WASHINGTON (CNN) – March Madness could have a whole new meaning if the Department of Education gets its way. The US Department of Education is calling on the NCAA to ban teams that don't graduate a majority of their players.
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan backed a call by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics to ban schools who graduate less than 50% of their players from tournament play and to restructure the revenue distribution for teams with failing rates.
“If you can’t manage to graduate half of your players, how serious is the institution- the coach and the program about the players’ academic success?” Duncan said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday.
In a report released by the Knight Commission on Thursday, 10 out of the 68 teams in this year’s March Madness are not on pace to graduate more than half of their players and a large discrepancy exists between the graduation rates for white and black players at some schools.
Eight teams in this year’s tournament, including Illinois, Villanova and Utah State, have a 100% graduation rate for both black and white players. But some teams have a discrepancy rate as high as 86%. At Kansas State University, 100% of white players graduated but only 14% of black players earned their diplomas. Women’s teams fared better with 22 teams having a 100% graduation rate with both white and black players.
The report also says that in the past five years, nearly $179 million dollars have gone to schools that don’t meet the minimum NCAA graduation rate and Duncan insists the best way to get quick results is to ban their eligibility in the tournament play.
“If the student athletes, but the coaches and the institutions themselves, the universities understood they’d be prohibited from competing if they couldn’t maintain a minimum of half of their students graduating, I promise you, I absolutely guarantee you over the next year or two you would see all of these programs dramatically improve their graduation rates,” Duncan said. “I will also tell you until we prohibit their participation, until we deal the financial revenue piece of this, we’ll continue just to get lip service.”
Duncan, who played college basketball at Harvard, said the issue is particularly personal one to him as he saw team members and other fellow players who didn’t graduate from college face many difficult challenges in life, all because they didn’t have a college degree.