Education Secretary Duncan Calls Foul on NCAA

While driving into work, I listened to ESPN’s "Mike & Mike in the Morning" show relay that U.S. Education Secretary (and former Harvard basketball star) Arne Duncan has proposed NCAA teams who don’t graduate 40% of their players should not be allowed to compete in the postseason. A New York Times blog explains:

Education Secretary Arne Duncan took another swing at the National Collegiate Athletic Association and top college basketball programs Wednesday, reiterating a call he made in January to ban from postseason play teams that fail to graduate at least 40 percent of their players.

If Duncan’s proposal were to be carried out, 12 teams in the N.C.A.A. men’s tournament would be barred from competing, including Kentucky, a No. 1 seed, which has a graduation rate of 31 percent, according to a study released earlier this week by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida. Six institutions (Brigham Young, Marquette, Notre Dame, Utah State, Wake Forest and Wofford) achieved a 100 percent graduation rate.

“If a university can’t have two out of five of their student-athletes graduate, I don’t know why they’re rewarded with postseason play,” Duncan said in a telephone conference call. His remarks were nearly identical to ones he made in a speech in January at the N.C.A.A. convention in Atlanta, where he told a crowd of athletic directors and university presidents that leaders in college sports aren’t doing enough to graduate basketball players.

ESPN’s analysts agreed the concept was well-meaning, although the logistics of such legislation would end up becoming convoluted because so many factors play into graduation rates (e.g. transfers, players who go to the NBA early, etc.). Jay Bilas also offered that coaches should not be punished for kicking a student off the team who can’t handle the academic load, since most would agree that’s the correct thing to do. He also opined that these are more than just basketball teams, they are institutions of higher learning, and they are equipped to handle these matters themselves.

What do you think? Fair or foul?

Expansion Now “Front Burner” Issue for Big Ten Conference

How can I justify putting this post on our blog? Hmm, well it’s sort of education-related … and it’s definitely profit-related.

The Big Ten athletic conference is looking seriously at expanding to 12 teams. The last team to join was Penn State in 1990. Schools reported as top candidates to fill the current void include Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri, Cincinnati and Louisville.

Brian Kelly’s boys in South Bend remain doubtful. The Chicago Tribune explains the rationale behind expansion:

Jim Delany never will be a contestant on "Top Chef," but the Big Ten commissioner frequently has used a cooking analogy when asked about the prospects of Big Ten expansion.

"A back-burner issue," he has called it.

Not anymore. According to a league official, the Big Ten will release a statement Tuesday saying the matter has moved to the front burner.

The first sign of change came from former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who told Wisconsin’s athletic board on Friday that Delany "is going to take this year to really be more aggressive about it. I just think everybody feels [expansion] is the direction to go, coaches and administrators."

A league source on Monday cited a "growing groundswell" of support among athletic directors for expansion.

In 1990, the Big Ten became the Bigger 11 by adding Penn State. (The Nittany Lions had to wait until 1993 to vie for their first Rose Bowl.) In 1999, Notre Dame stiff-armed the league’s overtures, and that put the issue on ice.

Why is it being revisited now?

The biggest reason, as always, is the stuff that doesn’t grow on trees: money. If the league expands to 12 teams and two divisions — like the SEC, Big 12 and ACC — it would create a Big Ten title game that could be worth $5 million or more to the league. The Big Ten Network would love to televise it, and the conference has a 51 percent ownership stake in the network.

Personally, I must admit that I love the Big Ten Conference. So much so that even though I’m an Indiana man, I even root for Purdue against "outsiders." And I think the conference embodies the characteristics of many Midwesterners like myself — the competitiveness, the penchant for good sportsmanship, and the plight of being terrible at football.

So I have mixed feelings about this move (should it happen). The money would be nice, but I think mega conferences like the Big East can get so convoluted they lose their identity, so expansion should be treaded lightly. Your thoughts?

NCAA/Former IU President Brand Remembered

Though he’ll likely be most remembered in Indiana for being the person who fired Bob Knight, Myles Brand’s legacy in regard to collegiate academia and athletics marked his greatest impact. Brand’s connection to young people and their future careers was demonstrated through his Indiana Chamber board of directors position while at both Indiana University and the NCAA.

I was a student at Indiana University during the Knight firing. Even though his decision was extremely unpopular at the time (illustrated by the alarming vitriol of some on campus), I’ve since held great respect for Brand for doing what I too felt to be the right thing. Brand died Wednesday from pancreatic cancer at the age of 67, and is remembered by the NCAA News.

NCAA President Myles Brand, the first university president to serve as the Association’s chief executive, died Wednesday from pancreatic cancer. He was 67.

"Myles Brand was a dear friend and a great academic leader. He was a tireless advocate for the student-athlete," said Michael Adams, president of the University of Georgia and chair of the NCAA Executive Committee. "Indeed, he worked to ensure that the student was first in the student-athlete model. He will be greatly missed."

Brand, who began his tenure in January 2003 after having served as president at Indiana and Oregon, died at his Indianapolis home. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in December 2008 and announced his condition to the NCAA Executive Committee, the national office staff and the leadership at NCAA member schools in January, saying the long-term prognosis for his condition was "not good."

Brand remained committed to leading the Association even through his illness, guiding the national office staff and communicating with presidential leadership up until the final days. He attended the Men’s Final Four in Detroit, was at the table for the Association’s spring governance meetings and worked at his office into September.

Brand built his presidency on academic reform and advocacy of intercollegiate athletics, accomplishing both. Under Brand’s leadership, Division I adopted an academic reform structure anchored by the Academic Progress Rate, a team-based, term-by-term measure of academic success that encourages improved academic performance. Divisions II and III also made significant advances under Brand’s watch — Division II by implementing an identity campaign and a strategic-positioning platform tied to specific divisional attributes, and Division III by fortifying its philosophy to manage unprecedented membership growth. Continue reading

Butler’s Jukes Stands Tall Off the Court

Avery Jukes is a basketball player at Butler University. Being a key player off the bench for an always competitive and sometimes overachieving program would normally be enough to define a young person during his or her college days.

Much more than an athlete, the Georgia native founded the Jukes Foundation for Kids after a volunteer trip to Uganda last summer. The mission is to collect resources, clothing, food and funding for educational needs in the African country. A mechancial engineering and mathematics major, Jukes also plans to assist those in need in his college home by building a youth recreational park in Indianapolis.

The Jukes Foundation is hosting the 2009 Champions for Children Gala on April 17 at the NCAA Hall of Champions. The family friendly event will honor the 2008-2009 Butler basketball team and include other special activities. But it’s not about basketball; it’s a young man doing what he can to help others in need.

Kudos to Avery and best of luck with all his efforts.

You can learn more about the foundation or donate here.