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Secretary of Education wants to disrupt March Madness

Posted by ZA on March 17, 2011

United States Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, voiced his opinion that teams should be barred from March Madness if they do not have at least half of their basketball players on track to graduate.  While that opinion is certainly a controversial one, since it could dramatically alter the NCAA Tournament that many of us love.  I agree with Mr. Duncan’s opinion, we should put more of an emphasis on academics for these kids who play sports in college.

Now I’m going to contradict my previous opinion, because my heart agrees with Mr. Duncan but my brain doesn’t.  College athletics is big business in which “money talks”; many of these athletes are in school to matriculate to professional sports.  While many won’t make it to the NBA (or NFL), that is still their goal.  They are presented with a good opportunity to get a free education, but they are also asked to maintain rigorous schedules to participate in their college sport.  The schools use these sports to gain more visibility and promote their brands, so their focus is typically on winning championships.  They all place importance on academics, but I feel that sometimes gets pushed aside when the big money and championships are at stake.

I don’t think preventing schools from participating in March Madness, based on academics, is really a genuine action.  I think there is much college athletics can do to put more emphasis on academics, but doing so may greatly change the landscape of college sports.  I think a better start would be to focus more on cleaning up some of the cheating that goes on in college sports.  At same time start to put into place realistic academic entrance requirements, so kids do have a chance to play college sports and get the academic assistance they need from outset.

Here is the USA Today article that expresses Arne Duncan’s opinion.

[Assist: Sports Business Daily]

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