OKLAHOMA CITY -- The eggheads are out in full force, but don't be fooled by their intellect. When smart people don't know what they're talking about, they become stupid. The eggheads are going to tell you that graduation rates are abysmal for college basketball teams, and on occasion they might even be right, but they're going to take it three steps too far and tell you that graduation rates ought to be tied to NCAA tournament eligibility.
|Arne Duncan says have the right graduation rate or don't dance. (Getty Images)|
Don't listen to the eggheads. Listen to me. I'll explain this issue in a way that makes sense to you, though it might not make sense to the eggheads. I'll use short sentences and clear words. I won't write what I think looks good to people who wear tweed jackets. I'll write common sense. Eggheads don't understand common sense. They don't have it. They probably don't even believe in it, because if you can't major in common sense at Yale, then common sense clearly doesn't exist.
I loathe eggheads. Is that clear? Loathe 'em. They're smarter than most people but dumber than everyone, walking around in khakis and sweaters because that's how intellectual people dress, their smug noses so high in the air that they can't see the rest of us shaking our heads in pity.
Only now, they're walking around in my backyard, leaving behind big steaming piles of crap on the hardwood of March Madness. So I have to deal with these eggheads, located in egghead places like U.S. News & World Report, which pushed out a story under a stinking headline that the "NCAA Should Bar Low Graduation Rate Schools From March Madness."
I don't really blame U.S. News & World Report. It knows not what it says, because it doesn't know college basketball. It has no idea what it's talking about, kind of like television's egghead king, PBS, doesn't know what it's talking about when it deigns to discuss something as sweaty and low-brow as college sports.
Egghead pied piper Arne Duncan should know better, seeing how he played college basketball, but he played at Harvard. Which means he's more egghead than athlete. Twenty-three years removed from his playing days in the Ivy League, surrounded by the elitists in Washington, D.C., he's a first-team Egghead All-American. He is merely a member of President Obama's cabinet, but in reality Duncan is our country's de facto Egghead-in-Chief based on his proclamation that any basketball program with a graduation rate of less than 40 percent should be banned from the NCAA Tournament.
Never mind that the NCAA recently found a way -- a fair way, a decent way -- to monitor graduation rates and tie them to postseason eligibility. It's called the APR, and it's confusing, but something as tricky as graduation rates cannot be boiled down to something obvious or simple. The NCAA says an APR of 925 corresponds to a graduation rate of 60 percent, and any school that falls short gets a warning after one year, a reduction in scholarships and practice time after the second and postseason sanctions after the third. One school, Centenary, was declared ineligible for the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
But Arne Duncan wants more. He wants teams that fall below a 40 percent graduation rate, just once, to be banned from the postseason. That would have eliminated 12 teams from this year's NCAA Tournament, by the way. It would have eliminated Kentucky (31 percent), a No. 1 seed in the field. It also would have eliminated Missouri (36 percent), Baylor (36 percent), Cal (20 percent) and Georgia Tech (38 percent). Those are some of the best academic schools in the field. Or in any field.
Let's look at one of those schools. Just one. That's all it will take to show Arne Duncan and his egghead posse that they are wrong, that they don't know what they're talking about, that they should stick to what they know -- government policy or tweed jackets or whatever it is that gets talked about by people who are smart in classrooms and boardrooms but stupid in real life.
Let's look at Georgia Tech. Keep in mind that graduation rates from 2009 go back six years, and in the last six years the Yellow Jackets have lost four underclassmen to the NBA: Chris Bosh, Jarrett Jack, Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton. The Jackets also have seen another player go to the NBA after four years, Anthony Morrow, and sent several more onto professional basketball overseas, where annual salaries are in the mid-six figures.
By any practical measure, Georgia Tech hasn't failed its basketball players. Georgia Tech has succeeded. For Georgia Tech to have a graduation rate of even 20 percent in a sport with so few players, most of the handful of Yellow Jackets who didn't leave college to make a ton of money in their chosen professional field had to, in fact, graduate. But you can't graduate in six years, as is allowed for the purpose of tabulating grad rates, if you're in the NBA after one or two or three. And you can't graduate in six years if you've left school after four years to make $200,000 in Australia, like ex-Jackets center Luke Schenscher.
See my point? Graduation rates are misleading. They don't count transfers at all, like Will Bynum, who played two years at Arizona and two at Georgia Tech. Whether he graduated or not is, literally, irrelevant. Graduation rates don't take into account a player who leaves school to be with a dying parent. They don't take into account a player who gets homesick or even arrested. Graduation rates are black and white, and that's not the world we live in.
It's not the world you live in, either, Arne Duncan. And you should know that, Secretary of Egghead.