Should Grades Matter in College Sports?

April 25th, 2010 by Kathy McManus

The debate over disqualifying basketball teams with low grades.

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Should college basketball teams that graduate less than 60 percent of their players as a result of failing grades be banned from playing in the NCAA tournament? Would banning teams result in better academic performances?

In a commentary written for ESPN.com, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan argues yes, making a case for putting “the ‘student’ back into ‘student-athlete.’” Secretary Duncan, who grew up playing basketball on Chicago’s Southside, says he doesn’t understand “why a small number of programs that seem largely indifferent to the academic success of their student-athletes continue to be rewarded with opportunities for post-season glory.”

The “low” academic bar needs to be raised, Duncan writes. “It’s time to start holding coaches and institutions more accountable for the academic outcomes of their athletes,” he argues. “It’s time that coaches of teams with weak academic records worry less about getting athletes in a uniform and more about getting them in a cap and gown.”