Follow the money.
That advice from Watergate informant “Deep Throat” led Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward to the truth that uncovered corruption in the nation’s highest public office. The concept applies to situations beyond the Oval Office, though. The commitment of a significant amount of money reveals the motivation (and the identity) of the spender.
Its basis is biblical — “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” If someone wants to know what is most important to another person, business or entity, find out where they spend most of their money.
Just as March Madness, circa 2011, began last week, the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics released its call to make colleges more accountable for the academic success of their men’s basketball teams, if those schools want to participate in the lucrative NCAA Tournament. Technically, the recommendation by the commission — a nonprofit, college sports reform group founded by two newspaper owners, John S. and James L. (not Bobby) Knight — isn’t new. For the past decade, the commission has advocated for a benchmark 50-percent graduation rate for eligibility in the NCAA Tournament.
This time, though, the commission goes a step farther. Based on its report of last June, “Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values and the Future of College Sports,” it recommends the portion of funds currently rewarded to colleges whose teams win NCAA Tournament games be reduced by half, and that the other half of the money be used to reward schools that meet the stiffer graduation-rate benchmark.
Right now, the only real punishment for a low graduation rate is embarrassment.
In 2004, the NCAA adopted a loose baseline for NCAA Tournament participation, based on each university’s “academic progress rate” or APR. An APR of 900 is a statistical prediction that 40 percent of a school’s men’s basketball players will graduate. A 925 APR predicts a 50-percent rate, and so on. Currently, the NCAA bans teams from its postseason tourney if the program falls below a 900 APR, but only after several consecutive seasons of low academic scores. Only two universities — unheralded Centenary and Portland State — have been locked out of a tournament since that 2004 guideline was set.
If the Knight Commission’s 925 (or 50-percent graduation projection) were applied to this year’s field of 68 teams, 10 schools wouldn’t be eligible for this year’s Big Dance. That list includes Alabama State, Kansas State, Morehead State, Purdue, San Diego State, UAB, Cal-Santa Barbara, USC and Texas-San Antonio. So, how costly would a lockout be for one of those 10?
Under the NCAA revenue distribution system, each game a team plays in the 2011 tournament yields $1.4 million for their school’s conference. During the past five NCAA Tournaments, the NCAA has distributed a combined $409 million under that formula for rewarding tournament performances. Of that $409 million issued to the conferences, 44 percent of it — or $178 million — was earned by teams with APRs under 925 (those on track to graduate less than 50 percent of their players). (In a USA Today report last week, the NCAA insisted that only 20 percent of its revenues sent to conferences was earned by low academic performing teams.)
The top earner, according to the Knight Commission’s figures, the Southeastern Conference, got 73.7 percent of its $40.6 million NCAA Tournament revenue from teams with sub-925 APRs. For Conference USA, 82.5 percent was generated by teams with less than a 925 APR. Other low-performers included the Big Sky (94.4 percent), the Western Athletic (89.3), the Mid-Eastern Athletic (85.9) and the Southwestern Athletic (80.9). Of the top 11 earning conferences, only the Missouri Valley (which includes Indiana State) received none of its revenues from a member school with a sub-925 APR. All $13.5 million of the MVC’s NCAA Tournament dividends came from teams projected to graduate at least 50 percent of their players.
“Our institutions have done a fine job of improving the APR and graduation rates of men’s basketball student-athletes, while at the same time competing respectably at the highest level in the NCAA Tournament, when given the chance,” MVC Commissioner Doug Elgin told the Tribune-Star on Friday. Elgin said the NCAA has made “significant progress” in improving graduation rates in recent years.
As for the Knight Commission report, the findings aren’t surprising, Elgin said, adding, “I don’t know how realistic the recommendations are, though the intentions are clearly noble.”
That assessment by Elgin, quite pragmatic, is accurate; the thought of pulling $204.5 million of that five-year total of $409 million in NCAA Tournament revenue and diverting it to universities meeting stiffer graduation benchmarks sounds noble and, perhaps, unrealistic. Likewise, coaches — such as Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim — pointed out that just two or three players “who do the wrong thing” academically could penalize their school’s program, even if the rest were A students, according to last week’s USA Today story.
Then again, just two or three blue-chip recruits make the difference between an NCAA Tournament qualifier and a Final Four-caliber squad.
A high-profile critic of the NCAA Tournament’s eligibility standards, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, supports the Knight Commission’s recommendation to ban teams with less than a 50-percent graduation rate. “Money talks,” Duncan told USA Today. “So right now, there is an absolute perverse incentive. Folks, follow the money, and the money said, ‘We don’t care about academic outcomes.’”
The NCAA basketball tourney gives participating colleges their most visible moment with the American general public. What if, during one of those promotional commercials during the CBS broadcasts, the NCAA announced that half of the 2011 revenues earned would be awarded to colleges that meet academic performance guidelines? Skeptics would say such a move would “affect the quality of ‘the product’ on the court.” Maybe. But it also would signal that the NCAA’s heart was now in the right place.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or email@example.com.
Follow the money.
Reaching the Wabash: New public-access point begins quest to create more spots to experience river
Fairness holds no power over the Wabash River.
Editorial: Get your austerity here!
Ads on the sides of school buses do not constitute a sign of the apocalypse. Western civilization will survive.
Flashpoint: President should stop Medicare Advantage cuts
Virtually all elected officials — Republicans and Democrats — share the goal of increasing access to affordable health insurance and helping families receive the best coverage to meet their specific needs.
Readers’ Forum: March 9, 2014
Mardi Gras great event for Swope
EPA regs will cause energy bills to soar
Please pray for Ukraine innocents
Sinful thinking on road to hell
Liberty — or licentiousness
People will not always agree
Botched chance at leadership
RONN MOTT: Radio now a long lost love
I fell in love with radio when I was 16, just a few short weeks before my 17th birthday. The man who did the deed and hired me was Adlai Ferguson.
EDITORIAL: Noteworthy in the news
Welcome to girls teams, fans
You can say that again
Reader Poll results
EDITORIAL: What do Sony cutbacks mean?
It is easy to understand why shivers run down local people’s spines whenever rumors hit the streets about Sony DADC’s plant on Terre Haute’s east side. With more than 1,400 people currently employed in Sony’s production and distribution facilities, the community has grown somewhat dependent on the economic stability Sony provides.
- Readers’ Forum: March 7, 2014
RONN MOTT: Knicks
The big noise in the NBA is whether Carmelo Anthony will stay with the New York Knicks or go elsewhere.
If my memory serves, and it doesn’t always, Carmelo left the Denver Nuggets, the team that drafted him, to play in the bright lights of the Big Apple. It was loudly proclaimed at the time that Carmelo wanted to play for a championship team. The Knicks’ ownership bought a bunch of players and spent a whole bunch of money to aid Carmelo in helping the Knicks to get to a championship.
EDITORIAL: More ill will against gays
If you’re a feral cat wandering freely through a trailer park in Indiana, the General Assembly has taken action to make your life better.
Readers’ Forum: March 6, 2014
Utilities do need tighter regulation
Great work by TV sports staff
Editorial: A good place for persistence
The topic of Gov. Mike Pence’s effectiveness as the state’s top governmental leader during this year’s General Assembly will be hashed and rehashed after the session closes down in the next couple of weeks. At best, the first-term governor will get mixed marks.
- Readers’ Forum: March 5, 2014
RONN MOTT: Abraham Lincoln and George Washington
I remember when by edict the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington were lumped into a single celebration called “Presidents Day.” I thought it was stupid then, and I still do.
LIZ CIANCONE: Antiques show better than any modern programs
I’m not a big fan of television.
Readers’ Forum: March 4, 2014
Lunatic ravings of the far right
Let IRS take the bullying pledge
EDITORIAL: New attention on sex assaults
Youth sexual assault in Indiana is a troubling issue that has not received the attention it deserves.
KELLY HAWES: It’s time to take politics out of redistricting
A bill to form a bipartisan redistricting commission apparently died in the Indiana Senate last week.
Readers’ Forum: March 3, 2014
Social workers honor profession
FLASHPOINT: Restoring trust, respect in schools rests in fundamentals
A recent Harris poll of 2,250 adults reveals a troubling educational trend.
EDITORIAL: Voters don’t have to stand for entrenched partisanship
Realistic Hoosiers understand members of Congress will typically follow their political party line.
MARK BENNETT: People spaces
Demolition machinery chipped away at the buildings on the 500 block of Wabash Avenue. I stood and watched awhile, last week. By July 2015, a new $18.7-million structure will replace those relics.
THOMAS L. STEIGER: Creativity requires freedom from the risks of failure
Last week I wrote about the themes that emerged from the panel discussion by five Wabash Valley members of the “creative class.”
Flashpoint: Everyone would benefit from responsibly expanding health coverage for Hoosiers
A medical epidemic is one of the worst scenarios a hospital can face — when a significant portion of the population is suddenly struck with a life-threatening illness.
Readers’ Forum: March 2, 2014
Candle still burns at St. Ann’s Clinic
Thanks to all at Sarah Scott
How should we define marriage?
An argument of science and law
Chance to expand your knowledge
Excellent service from paper carrier
Central time zone makes more sense
Summer adult baseball league for all ages
Recognizing that all people matter
More selfish opposition to Common Core
EDITORIAL: Noteworthy in the news
Cheers, Jeers and Tears
You can say that again
Reader Poll results
RONN MOTT: Independent thinking in a rapidly changing world
I am a rather independent person. Oh, I don’t belong to any radical, political organization.
Editorial: Toward a better Lifeline Law
In a perfect world, no college or high school student under 21 would drink alcohol, especially to excess. No student would be sexually assaulted. And no student would experience a drug overdose. There is no perfect world.
- Readers’ Forum: Feb. 28, 2014
RONN MOTT: Ukraine
It’s quiet in Ukraine as I write this but, trust me, it won’t be quiet very long.
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