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UNC's Friday backs plan to emphasize student over athlete

Posted March 18, 2010
Updated March 19, 2010

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— The former president of the University of North Carolina system offered wholehearted support Thursday for a proposal that would require a minimum graduation rate for Division I college basketball programs to qualify for postseason play.

William C. Friday, who was also a founding chairman of the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, said the commission recommended something similar 10 years ago.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan offered a plan Wednesday that would bar teams from the NCAA Tournament if they fail to graduate 40 percent of their players.

Were the same criteria in place, a dozen teams in the 2010 tournament would be ineligible, based on an annual study from the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida.

That includes a No. 1 seed, Kentucky, which graduated 31 percent of its players, according to the institute's latest report.

"What this really dramatizes is the fact that there are institutions today enrolling student athletes who have a 10th-grade reading skill, and it's just wrong," Friday said.

"When we take these young people in, we ought to guarantee them a fighting chance to get a college degree rather than exploit them."

The two North Carolina teams in the tournament are among the leaders in terms of graduation rates. Duke graduated 92 percent of men's basketball players; Wake Forest was perfect at 100 percent.

Duke's first-round opponent, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, graduated just 29 percent of players, according to the study.

Neither North Carolina State nor the University of North Carolina Tar Heels qualified for the tournament this season based on their athletic performance. If they had, N.C. State  would only just make the cut-off. The study shows the Wolfpack graduate just 45 percent of men's basketball players. Three-quarters of the players at UNC graduated during the study period.

The NCAA and NBA have come under fire for a system that seems to reward athletes for treating universities as a brief stopover along the way to the pros rather than an academic destination. Under a rule implemented in 2006, the NBA requires that players be a minimum of 19 years old or one year beyond their high school graduation to be eligible for the draft.

The rule essentially forces high-profile players to spend a year in college.

Kentucky freshman guard John Wall, widely believed to be the best high school player in the country during his career at Raleigh's Word of God Academy, is expected to explore his NBA options after the season is over. 

"What is happening, of course, is the institutions are the farm club system for major-league basketball," Friday said.

"It isn't true in baseball and football," Friday said. "If the NBA would agree to that same rule, you'd see a lot of things change."

He urged college presidents and boards of trustees to reclaim a leadership role and back limits on sports programs he called "out of control."

"What we have to do is decide whether or not we're going to stay in the entertainment business," he said. "Are you in two different operations here – intercollegiate sports and running a university – because you can't do both."


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  • deton8tor Mar 19, 2010

    When I first glanced at the article i thought it said
    "UNC's Friday backs plan to euthanize student over athlete"
    I thought Wow man that's pretty harsh!!

  • Bill of Rights Mar 19, 2010

    I fully support what Friday is saying. I have worked hard to maintain my 3.9 GPA at State and it burns me when I get the mailings asking for students to help tutor student athletes through the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes program. These athletic students should use the services available to the rest of us - and if they can't maintain their grades, they need to find a good community college.

  • WHEEL Mar 19, 2010

    From the looks of the UNC basketball program I figured they had already shifted emphasis.

  • nbforrest Mar 19, 2010

    I agree with Friday, alot of kids go to college because they can dribble a ball or catch one but cannot write a complete sentence. Athletes should be held to the same standards. The really gifted players need a true education, because someone is waiting to steal the big money they make. Ask Kareem.

  • oakmont Mar 19, 2010

    Does John Edwards have any eligibility left, Bill? We have been waiting for Bill to make a public comment over Edwards and his university(state) paid position and poverty center. What's good for the goose is not good for the gander, huh Bill?

  • asjdiw Mar 18, 2010

    I can't believe that on the whole, college sports make money. For those that say they do, I'd like to see data. I suspect it is similar to the situation here hucksters tout pro teams in their cities. Study after study has shown the tax payer loses out.

  • balog Mar 18, 2010

    Seriously? Acknowledge the athletes for producing revenue? They do, it is call getting sa free ride to a college they otherwise wouldn't have a chance in hell in getting in based on their education (or lack there of) alone. Is it fair that a high school student with a 3.5 gpa and 1250 on an SAT gets rejected to UNC when a high school basketball players with a 1.7 gpa and scores 950 on an SAT not only gets in, but doesn't have to pay? Please, these kids are pampered.

  • Nikka Mar 18, 2010

    I thought UNC's #1 major was basketball? Isn't that the main focus of the school and the recipient of most of the funding?

    Academics should play a back seat at a sports school.

  • Pirate Jake Mar 18, 2010

    My late friend Dick Devenzio had the right idea. He said,
    "Acknowledge that these athletes produce significant revenue, pay them for their services, but put it in a trust fund that becomes available only after graduation. "You think there's a chance in hell he wouldn't get that degree?" said DeVenzio, former Duke University guard, Washington State graduate assistant and author.

    I love ECU and fully support it's athletic programs, but the arms race in college sports has gotten out of hand and created a feeding frenzy and a system of haves and have nots that threatens to consume everyone and every team. I'm for smaller, regional conferences,like the old ACC used to be before it prostituted itself for football's sake. If it goes on unchecked, then one day a super conference will have 30 teams and a conference tourney will be a month long affair, televised by ESPN and shown around the clock like The Truman Show.

  • balog Mar 18, 2010

    For those thinking that the athletic programs generate huge streams of revenbue for the colleges - think again. Very few universities in the grand scheme are widely unknown. Out of the 64 teams in this years tournament, how many of them do you really think get regularly exposed national coverage? And out of those getting regular national coverage, how much of that money do you think really gets put back into the general fund of the university coffers? Very little to none. It goes to paying for costs of doing "business" i.e. staffing of facilities, maint. of facilities, team uniforms, etc. So to say that an atheletic program is a staple revenue generator for a university is misinformed at best.
    There is nothing wrong with requiring these kids to be able to perform at an respectable level at a university because they are given scholarships. Tyler Hansbrough did it, passed all of his classes with hard work. Shane Battier was another.
    I think if a student-athelete who is taking a spot in