Duke and Butler Debunk NCAA Tournament Myths

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The Duke-Butler match-up puts to the lie the notion that men’s basketball teams have to cut academic corners, especially for African-American athletes, to succeed in the NCAA tournament.

Duke and Butler had the two highest NCAA graduation rates — 92 percent and 90 percent, respectively — of any of the men’s basketball teams in the Sweet Sixteen, and they graduate more than 75 percent of their African-American players. At the same time, not one of the 12 men’s teams in the NCAA tournament with graduation rates below 40 percent made it to the Final Four this year. Anyone who filled out their Sweet Sixteen brackets this year based on graduation rates alone would have had Duke and Butler going head-to-head in the final.

The women’s basketball teams are also showing us why star players are both students and amateur athletes — and not just participants in big-time college sports entertainment. All four teams in the women’s Final Four graduated more than 80 percent of their players, black and white –- and Connecticut and Stanford, the two finalists, both graduate 100 percent of their players.

The NCAA tournament is providing yet another reminder of the incomparable value of sports to a college education, both on and off the court. I congratulate all the winners for showing why college basketball is all about demonstrating leadership, teamwork, discipline, selflessness, and court smarts. And I applaud all of these programs for doing the right thing by their student athletes. One day, when the ball stops bouncing, these extraordinary athletes will still have an education.

Secretary Arne Duncan