Duncan: NCAA Should Ban March Madness Teams With Low Grad Rates

Debating the education secretary's call to the NCAA.

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By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

The full March Madness tournament tipped off today and by day's end the field of 64 teams will have been winnowed by eight. But Education Secretary Arne Duncan would like to see the field narrowed even before anyone takes the court. In fact if the NCAA had already adopted Duncan's proposal--that teams which fail to graduate 40 percent of their students be barred from postseason tournaments--a dozen of the 64 teams would have been barred from the tournament, including the University of Kentucky, which has a 31 percent graduation rate.

Duncan first floated this idea back in January, so we asked a couple of experts to weigh in on its merits. Ben Miller, an analyst at Education Sector, a think tank here in D.C., makes a strong case for the Duncan position, deploying a really shocking set of statistics about the poor academic records of some of the big schools. Marc Isenberg, who has advised high school and college athletes and written a couple of books in this area, comes at the argument from a different perspective. Instead of punishing poorly performing schools, he argues, we should simply drop the pretense that these athletes are amateur and should treat them like the pros they are.

Both pieces are thought-provoking; take a look at them while you're marking down the upset that you neglected to pick in your bracket.

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  • Read how Arne Duncan wants to hold schools accountable for poor graduation rates.