Media Reports on Secretary Duncan’s Support of Knight Commission Recommendations to Reward Teams That Make Academics a Priority

1. Arne Duncan Washington Post Opinion

On March 17, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced his support for two Knight Commission recommendations designed to reward teams that make academics a priority: requiring teams to be on track to graduate 50 percent of their players to be eligible for postseason play and providing financial incentives from postseason distributions for meeting graduation benchmarks. Duncan’s endorsement of the Commission’s recommendations was widely covered by news media.

An op-ed by Secretary Duncan was published in the Washington Post. His comments included: “A new analysis, released today by the Knight Commission, shows the current tournament revenue formula is badly skewed to reward success on the court, with little expectation of success off the court.”

2. News Media reports on Knight Commission recommendation and Duncan endorsement

USA Today reported on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s endorsement of the Knight Commission proposals, particularly its recommendation that NCAA revenue distribution be changed to reward teams that meet minimal academic standards instead of the current system that places a premium on basketball tournament success. USA Today quoted Duncan: “Money talks. So right now there is an absolute perverse incentive. Folks follow the money, and the money says, ‘We don’t care about academic outcomes.'”

Bloomberg News reported on Secretary Duncan’s support of the Knight Commission’s recommendations: “It’s time to end rewarding teams millions of dollars for winning basketball games when they are failing to graduate their players. I join the Knight Commission in advocating a reward system that recognizes teams that meet minimal academic standards.”

The Wall Street Journal included a statement by Duncan that “if the NCAA prohibited under-performing teams from postseason play, “very rapidly you would see these renegade programs get in line.” Diverse Issues in Higher Education quoted Duncan: “We need a more sensible balance of athletics and academic priorities.”

The North Jersey Record reported about the Knight Commission’s recommendation, and quoted Commission executive director Amy Perko: “There needs to be serious consequences. The NCAA will penalize the schools that fall below the [academic] benchmarks. But the commission believes it’s time to really put forward some really strong consequences as far as the revenue distribution system… it all comes down to how serious coaches and colleges take academics. It’s the priority the institution has put on in admissions … and the commitment and value to retain the players and help them work toward achieving their degree.”

3. Editorial Board Support for Arne Duncan and Knight Commission recommendation

An editorial by the Deseret News in Salt Lake City supported the Knight Commission’s proposal and Duncan’s endorsement. The editorial stated: “Beyond the pain of some high-profile eliminations, Duncan said such a rule would have an immediate, positive effect. Schools quickly would get the message and begin emphasizing academics. ‘If you can’t graduate one in two of your student-athletes, I just question the institutional commitment to academics,’ he was quoted as saying by USA Today. That doesn’t sound ‘completely nuts’ to us. It sounds quite the opposite.” …”Duncan said he’s just looking for some leadership and courage from the NCAA. He seems to be exhibiting both. We applaud him for speaking plainly on the subject and hope the NCAA listens.”