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.
READERS’ FORUM: May 21, 2013
• Great response to annual golf outing
• Doing your part on climate change
LIZ CIANCONE: Smell of fresh air gave way to dryers
Remember when clean clothes smelled like fresh air and sunshine rather than fabric softener and dryer sheets?
READERS' FORUM: May 20, 2013
The dangers of a little knowledge
Students enjoyed Rose study trip
Mark Bennett: High-profile mural connects historical dots from city to river
At 96 feet wide and 2 stories tall, the power, impact and value of the Wabash will be evident.
EDITORIAL: Waging the ‘readiness’ campaign
Almost every Hoosier who starts college intends to finish. Unfortunately, those who arrive on campus unprepared in key academic areas are far less likely to fulfill that aspiration.
READERS' FORUM: May 19, 2013
• Flawed reasoning on gun checks
• A hint of things yet to come?
• Are the ‘makers’ doing the ‘taking’?
• The ‘Obamination’ is finally revealed
• Pondering effects of Obamacare
• Fantasizing on the ‘Apocalypse’
• Another view of Hinduism
• Great experience for HCMS students
FLASHPOINT: A legislative session of missed opportunities
Given the nature of politicians, grand claims of accomplishments and overblown rhetoric about “historic” efforts are to be expected at the close of any legislative session.
RONN MOTT: Mushrooms = Hoosier happiness
Someone wrote or said a few years ago a statement that would define the word “Hoosier.” According to this urban legend, a Hoosier is somebody dribbling a basketball around the Indy 500 while eating a fried, morel mushroom. It did not define me, at the time.
EDITORIAL: Insult to an independent press
Distrust of government secrecy has been elevated to an exceptional level with the disclosure the Justice Department covertly examined two months of Associated Press phone records to determine who leaked details to the AP about a foiled terrorist plot.
READERS' FORUM: May 17, 2013
Hinduism doesn’t deserve ridicule — Shefali Purohit, Terre Haute
RONN MOTT: Israel’s Air Force
Recently the Israeli Air Force bombed and rocketed a convoy leaving Syria going to Lebanon with rockets that were going to be used to attack Israel. It did not get there. It was destroyed.
EDITORIAL: Noteworthy in the news: Dashing finish for the Sycamores
It’s always thrilling to see Indiana State University’s athletic teams do well in high-level competition, and two specific teams rose to impressive heights last weekend in the Missouri Valley Conference outdoor track and field championships.
Readers' Forum: May 16, 2013
Moving Deming folks sounds ‘nuts’
Readers' Forum: May 15, 2013
Participants rise to the challenge: I would like to write a letter congratulating all the Wabash Valley Roadrunners that competed in the One America Indianapolis Mini Marathon.
RONN MOTT: Media merry-go-round
Round and round it goes, where it stops nobody knows. That isn’t a unique phrase to this writer or to this era in time. But, when it comes to the musical chairs of broadcasting, it certainly applies.
LIZ CIANCONE: Courts see a different appearance than cops
Have you ever noticed the transformation between the arrest of an accused lawbreaker and the first appearance in court?
READERS' FORUM: May 14, 2013
ISTEP failure exposes flaws
Community hasn’t changed its spirit
Egregious threat to nation’s defense
READERS' FORUM: May 13, 2013
• Women’s group criticizes Bucshon
• Let’s hope this doesn’t come true
• Many get thanks for fest success
MARK BENNETT: Life at face value: Mom’s simple advice still presents a valuable daily challenge
Most moms don’t base their advice on scientific research.
(Unless, of course, your mother is a scientific researcher. If so, carry a No. 2 pencil and take good notes.)
EDITORIAL: Better monitoring needed to prevent local environmental messes
The nasty, hazardous messes lurking in the community raise a bottom-line, red-flag question. Could these environmental problems have been monitored and, thus, prevented?
GUEST COLUMN: Nursing more than medicine and bandages
Being a nurse … Like most nurses, I chose this profession because I had a strong desire to help others and no other career would allow me the opportunity to touch lives the way I have been able to through nursing.
READERS' FORUM: May 12, 2013
Vigo Youth Football, entering 45th year, seeks new support
Media ignoring important case on abortions
Proud to be old-fashioned
Guns in school? What’s next?
Promoting hate not a ‘brave’ act
FLASHPOINT: Again in 2013 General Assembly, middle class generally ignored
Last year, the people of Indiana entrusted the Republican Party with some of their most precious possessions.
RONN MOTT: ‘Raccoons II’
In the Algonquin Indian language, raccoon means “working with hands.” They are really cute little fellows until they injure a child, or a pet, or leave feces around where you certainly do not want it.
Readers’ Forum: May 11, 2013
I just wanted to express my disappointment at the lack of response shown by President Obama after the Boston Marathon bombings.
Readers' Forum: May 10, 2013
CANDLES event plants new seed: On April 26, CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center hosted an event called “Sowing Seeds of Peace: A Celebration of Spring” at the Apple House. Our purpose was to introduce people to our concept of forgiveness as a seed for peace.
RONN MOTT: ‘NRA Convention’
At the recent NRA Convention in Houston, Texas, where the right-wing political hot air almost lifted the convention's building off its foundation, the NRA trotted out the forever yours political dame of the right wing, Sarah Palin. Sarah did not disappoint.
EDITORIAL: Memo to U.S.A.: You can ‘SPPRAK’ just as we do in Vigo County
Our kids, truly, are ‘Making a Difference’
Some words in praise of boring government — Indiana’s
A conservative Republican governor has super majorities in both branches of the legislature. One might suspect such one-party government leads to major changes in public policy. This did not happen in 2013 in Indiana.
EDITORIAL: Doc’s prescient prescription
Viewed through a 2013 prism, Doc Bowen’s response to the AIDS epidemic looks merely prudent, routine.
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- READERS’ FORUM: May 21, 2013