Secretary of Education: Hit ’em in Wallet

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and former University of Maryland All-American Tom McMillen co-wrote an opinion piece, published in USA Today, that criticizes the current compensation and incentive packages for football and basketball coaches and calls for “creating a healthier balance between academics and athletics in our universities.”

Duncan and McMillen commend the NCAA for adopting rules that require teams to be on track to graduate at least half of their players to be eligible for postseason competition—a policy originally proposed by the Knight Commission in 2001—but highlight that much more needs to be done to strengthen the educational mission of college sports. They write: “Too often, presidents and trustees undermine that mission by providing lucrative incentives to coaches that downplay the importance of athletes getting a college education.”

McMillen reviewed contracts for 50 head football and basketball coaches, primarily from the USA TODAY Sports coaches’ salary database (football and men’s basketball), and found “that academic incentives averaged $52,000 per coach, while athletic incentives averaged $600,000 per coach — a lopsided ratio of 11-to-1.”

Duncan and McMillen also cite recent Knight Commission and Delta Cost Project data “comparing spending per athlete and student at Division I institutions. In the six ‘power conferences’ that form the Bowl Championship Series, median athletic spending per athlete topped $100,000 in 2010, compared to about $15,600 spending per student.”

Duncan and McMillen conclude: “This we know for sure: The current path of big-time college sports is neither economically sustainable nor morally defensible.”

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