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January 12, 2012 - Arne Duncan urges NCAA leaders to continue changes

The Associated Press reported on an address by the U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan at the 2012 NCAA convention. Duncan urged the nation’s major institutions to put some of the revenue earned from football and men’s basketball championships into an education fund. .

Duncan praised recent policies adopted by the association membership, including tougher academic standards for athletes, making graduation rates commensurate with postseason eligibility, offering additional money to cover living expenses and scholarships that cannot be taken away because of poor performances on the field.

"A couple of these things are steps in the right direction, and I think the NCAA has moved faster than people expected," Duncan said. "I think the p­­roblems are very real, and I think the cost of inaction is very high."

"The Bowl Championship Series conferences should set aside some of that bowl money for a student-enhancement fund, and there are proposals out there that they can look at," Duncan said. (While not mentioned in the article, Duncan cited the Knight Commission’s Academic-Athletic Balance Fund as one approach that might be considered along with other concepts. In its Restoring the Balance report, the Knight Commission proposed that the Academic-Athletics Balance Fund be created using shared revenues from the BCS and NCAA men’s basketball tournament. The funds would then be allocated to institutions based on academic values, such as athletes meeting academic benchmarks and the institutions maintaining an appropriate ratio between athletics and academic spending).

Duncan noted the “misplaced priorities” that millions of dollars in revenues earned from athletics are currently not going to academic support.

He said, “the narrative for 2012 in college sports is all about the deal, it's all about the brand. It's about the big-time college football programs saying 'Show me the money.’ Too often, large, successful programs seem to exist in an insular world, a world of their own. Their football and basketball players, sometimes even their coaches, are given license to behave in ways that would be unacceptable elsewhere in higher education or in society at large. Nothing, I mean nothing, does more to erode public faith in intercollegiate sports than the appearance of a double standard."

His remarks, headlined "Time to Bring Your "A" Game—in Academics and Athletics," can be accessed at http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/time-bring-your-game-academics-and-athletics

“…First, as I mentioned, the BCS conferences should set aside a meaningful share of bowl revenues for an academic enhancement fund that supports the education of student athletes. The NCAA has no control over bowl revenues, so this would be a decision each conference would have to make.

There are models out there to look at now, from the Knight Commission's proposed Academic-Athletics Balance Fund to the NCAA's degree-completion award programs, which enable athletes to return to get their degrees after their five-year eligibility period expires. “