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Arne Duncan Dulls NCAA Tourney Buzz

No doubt, many of you are filling out NCAA tournament brackets and entering office pools, even if you have no idea how well...

No doubt, many of you are filling out NCAA tournament brackets and entering office pools, even if you have no idea how well Georgetown matches up with Kansas this year. Here's a tip from President Barack Obama: Murray State has "a well balanced team and they're athletic," thus they're likely to upset Vanderbilt in the first round. (Knowing the ins-and-outs of an Ohio Valley Conference basketball team may be part of the reason for the delay in healthcare reform.)

While the commander-in-chief and countless others are getting ready for the wall-to-wall coverage that begins tomorrow, Education Secretary Arne Duncan wants everyone to know that 25 percent of the schools in the tournament this year fail to graduate 40 percent of their basketball players. (Buzz kill.) Among those that fail to meet this goal are Kentucky, Louisville, and Tennessee, as well as some of the nation's premier public universities (Berkeley, Georgia Tech, and Washington).

Duncan, who played basketball at Harvard (a school which tends to graduate all its ball players), has been harping on the NCAA to improve its graduation rates for student athletes in both basketball and football since he delivered the keynote at the NCAA's convention in Atlanta in January.

Basketball is the most egregious of these sports. The NBA allows players who are 19 and have played one year of college ball to enter its draft-a policy that more or less encourages a sort of tourism where ballers do an obligatory year at a pedigreed school before collecting their NBA pay day. And considering that just a few years ago, players were skipping college altogether and matriculating to pro ball straight from high school, things aren't going to change any time soon.

In fact, columnist Scoop Jackson commended Duncan for his speech in January before hitting with the cold, hard truth: that Duncan's words would have no effect.
Although the game may be fine, its infrastructure is severely damaged. Some of the principles and procedures are as flawed as the face of a patient on "Nip/Tuck." ... What should be a rallying cry, a call to arms that initiates a faction to ignite some change, will remain stuck in its own moment. Just a courageous yet meaningless speech given to a room full of dignitaries who seem to be too comfortable with leaving "the agreement" between the NCAA and NBA as is.

Could schools help the situation by offering kids who don't make it in the NBA a chance to return to school at a discounted rate, if they return within, say, five years? Is there a way to pump up the student component of "student-athlete"?

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