U.S. Education Sec. Calls For Improved Academic Standards For Student Athletes

Mar 22, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. - U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is one of a number of officials calling on universities to place more emphasis on academic benchmarks in coaches’ incentive packages.

According to research by former Maryland congressman and University of Maryland basketball player Tom McMillan, coaches across the country are receiving incentives weighted heavily toward their performance on the field or court and not toward academic achievement. McMillan says the ratio is about 11 to 1 – numbers that left Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in his words, “stunned.”

"The incentives are all wrong, and for better or worse, in college sports today you have to follow the money and if you want to influence behavior you have to redirect that money," Duncan told reporters on Thursday.

Though schools are making progress toward implementing higher benchmarks for student athletes, Duncan says academic achievement and graduation rates are still not given priority at most schools.

At the University of Kentucky, men’s basketball coach John Calipari’s contract awards him a $50,000 bonus if his team members maintain a .95 Academic Progress Rate, a calculation based on student eligibility and retention. Calipari is eligible for $800,000 in annual athletic performance-related bonuses. A $50,000 incentive for achieving a 75 percent graduation rate was eliminated as part of an amendment to Calipari’s contract in 2011.