In an op-ed for USA Today yesterday, President Obama’s secretary of education, Arne Duncan, pushed for universities and their athletic departments to implement financial penalties for coaches whose players fail to graduate. Writing with Tom McMillen, a regent at the University of Maryland system, Duncan criticizes the fact that coaches’ generous contracts include no incentive “to reinforce the educational mission of their institutions” in the way they reward successes on the field or court. McMillen analyzed close to 50 coaches’ contracts and found that athletic-performance-related bonuses outweigh academic bonuses eleven to one, an imbalance they call “neither economically sustainable nor morally defensible.”
The authors didn’t provide too many specifics of what they’re suggesting, but encourage university governing boards, particularly of public universities, to explore ways to address their “plainly out-of-whack” compensation schemes. They do actually go so far as to suggest “clawback” provisions that would allow universities to seek compensation from coaches or athletic directors of “rogue programs” even after they’ve left the schools.
Duncan and McMillen praise the NCAA for raising its academic standards in recent years; for instance, they now require that a team’s graduation rate must be above 50 percent in order to qualify for postseason play. The University of Connecticut, college-basketball national champions in 2011, has been barred from the tournament for failing to meet these standards.