From The Cabinet: Coaches’ Bonuses Should Be Tied To Academics

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WASHINGTON – Having gotten to the White House briefing room early, I attended a presser with the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

Duncan, 50, was captain of the Harvard basketball team, and an academic All-American, and later played pro basketball in Australia.

So his thoughts on college basketball are certainly relevant, on the day the UConn men and women were honored at the White House, and Duncan was asked Monday about the NCAA and various issues being debated right now.

Just passing it along :


“… I do think student athletes, again, should not just be going to the institution to make millions of dollars for the institution and have no degree to show for it.  And I grew up playing with a lot of basketball players back home on the South Side of Chicago who did exactly that – didn’t quite make the NBA, came home, had nothing to show for it and had very tough lives.  And that was something that’s sort of indelibly marked from my experience.

      So making sure young people have a chance – yes, to play, but to be students first, athletes second, and holding universities accountable for that; having them have the chance to come back and earn their diploma at some point if they need to do that; and looking at sort of their long-term medical needs, or whatever. I think there’s some commonsense middle ground that folks can and should get to.

… Where I challenge universities and challenge university presidents and athletic directors and coaches, where [athletes] are being used to generate revenue for the coach and his salary; where they’re being used to generate revenue for the university, and no sense is given to the importance of their academic success – it is absolutely using, and I would say abusing those young men and women. 

     And the most important thing – if they can get that college degree, that changes their life forever.  We know a tiny, tiny percent make a nickel professionally.  They get that college degree,they have this huge opportunity in front of them.  If they don’t have that, if they compete for a couple years and go back to the streets with nothing, they have absolutely been used [by the college] and that’s not acceptable.

     We challenged the NCAA a couple years ago to raise college graduation rates in order to compete in the NCAA.  We got that through, they were very good about that. 

     Final thing I’ll say is, it’s interesting the vast majority of coaches’ contracts – Tom McMillen, who’s a Rhodes Scholar, has done some work on this – coaches’ contracts, the overall majority of their incentives are tied to wins and losses; very little is tied to academic performance.  So the structure of this is backwards, and we’d love to see more coaches’ contracts [written so that] to get any bonus, their student athletes would have to meet a minimum academic success level.”


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