U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan wrote in an editorial for USA Today that college basketball coaches who don’t graduate their players should face financial penalties.
Duncan, a former professional basketball player himself, is trying capitalize on all the publicity that the March Madness tournament is generating as a way of getting his message heard. He said Thursday that coaches who get outsized financial bonuses for solid on-the-court performances have a responsibility to their players off the floor as well.
“Coaches receive huge financial bonuses when their team is winning. Yet the incentives for academic success in the contracts (we) examined show how warped priorities have become at some institutions,” Duncan wrote. The piece was co-authored by Tom McMillen, a member of the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, according to The Daily News.
"If universities and colleges want to readjust a coach's priorities, they need to change the penalties and incentives they offer coaches," the pair added. "Poor academic performance means the team or the individual player — not the coach — gets punished. But no coach should receive financial bonuses when much of his team is flunking out or failing to get a degree.”
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Academic performance is a real issue for the NCAA. The Connecticut Huskies weren't eligible to compete in this year’s tournament because the team failed to meet the minimum academic requirements for postseason play.
Duncan and McMillen reviewed a sample of salaries of NCAA Division I men’s basketball and football coaches. They found that most coaches earned more than $2 million per year. The average athletic incentives per coach were $600,000, while the average academic incentives per coach were $52,000.
The duo suggested a new coach-compensation model for the NCAA. "They could adopt a model of ‘best practices’ that includes greater parity in new contracts for coaches between academic and athletic bonuses and provides penalties for poor academic performance,” wrote Duncan and McMillen.