Staff editorial: Priorities should be invested in academics not athletics


John Wall and Kentucky are soaring on the court, but they are scoring low in their studies. Kentucky's men's basketball team has a 31 percent graduation rate. Courtesy of MCT

With the NCAA Tournament in full effect many students, fans and alumni are caught up rooting for their college basketball team to win a national championship. Meanwhile, they don’t even realize that the student-athletes of their universities are struggling to graduate.

Recently the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida released the graduation rates of all the schools, excluding Cornell, competing in the NCAA Tournament. Overall the graduation rates of all students-athletes are at a solid 64 percent but there is a huge disparity between white players and African American players.

Eighty four percent of white basketball players go on to graduate compared to 56 percent for African Americans.

The universities of Kentucky and UNLV have a graduation rate of 100 percent for their white athletes but only have 18 percent and 13 percent apiece for their African American athletes.

For example, this season Southern California decided to punish itself by declining to compete in the Pac 10 Tournament after allegations broke that OJ Mayo received cash and gifts during the 2007-08 season.

Many schools don’t care about their student-athletes graduating but instead rather have a winning team that can generate money.
These acts should not go unpunished.

The U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has the perfect solution to push universities to make education their number one priority. Duncan believes the NCAA should ban college basketball teams with a graduation rate below 40 percent from postseason play.

If this proposal were to be put into practice one of the most popular teams in the tournament, Kentucky, would be out of the big dance due to its 31 percent graduation rate.

Along with Kentucky, 12 other tournament teams have a graduation rate below 40 percent, with Maryland being the lowest at a dismal 8 percent.
Unfortunately Duncan’s idea probably won’t become a reality for awhile, as the NCAA wants the popular teams to compete in the postseason in order for CBS and ESPN to pay them top dollar to televise their games.

With the NCAA and the universities worrying about getting more money into their pockets, in the long run, student-athletes suffer by not getting a degree. Yes there are some exceptions for the ones that make it to the NBA but the chances of student-athletes making it to the professional level are slim to none. So after the student-athletes are done playing basketball they are dumped back into the real world without a diploma to fall back on.

Last season Villanova, who went to the final four, had a graduation rate of 89 percent and the national champion North Carolina had a graduation rate of 86 percent. With these two teams being successful in the tournament they showed that schools don’t need to dumb it down in order to have a winning team.