WASHINGTON – Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Wednesday said poor graduation rates among some college basketball programs would improve if the NCAA linked postseason play to the number of student-athletes getting their diplomas.
“They should make a rule that, if you’re below a certain point, you don’t qualify for the tournament,” Duncan told reporters at the Capitol. “And I guarantee that would fix the problem in a hurry. I promise you that. We’d fix this thing overnight.”
Duncan, who played basketball at Harvard University, said 25 percent of men’s basketball teams in last year’s NCAA tournament graduated less than two out of five players.
“You had four teams that didn’t graduate any African-American players. Zero. If that was my son, I don’t know if I would want him playing there,” Duncan said. “And why did we allow them to play in this tournament, make all this money, be on national TV, and they’re not graduating any kids?”
He did not name any specific schools.
Duncan had weighed in on the issue in a speech last week at the NCAA convention in Atlanta, where he also criticized coaches who move to new jobs while their former schools are being investigated for violations.
Asked about the speech Wednesday, he joked, “They might not invite me back.” Citing himself as an example, Duncan said taking part in collegiate athletics can be beneficial to students.
“I think maybe, in addition to the military, this is the largest producer of future – potential future – leaders in the country,” he said. “Why I care so much about it is I love the values that you can learn through a quality experience.”