U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan ushered in the NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament earlier this month with an op-ed in The Washington Post arguing that schools should only qualify for post-season play if they are on track to graduate at least 40 percent of their players.
The argument by Duncan, who is a basketball player and fan himself, has been made by many critics, including the Knight Commission for Intercollegiate Athletics, which proposed restricting participation to only those programs that graduated more than half of their players. And rightfully so: men’s college basketball does a poor job of graduating its players, with 10 of the original 68 teams in the tournament not meeting the “50 percent” benchmark this year. This leaves players who don’t go professional — the vast majority of them — without the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the real world. Many sportswriters and fans, on the other hand, think that Duncan’s viewpoint is out of touch –and that critics of NCAA basketball and football need to come to grips with the fact that, for many athletes who play for hugely popular athletics programs, the sport is simply more important than the degree.