Who's Smarter? Men or Women College Coaches?

Myles Brand, President of the NCAA just announced a 27 member Blue Ribbon Division I Men's Basketball Academic Enhancement Group made up of university administrators, faculty athletic representatives, conference commissioners, NABC members and active NCAA Division I coaches.

Those coaches included: Jim Boeheim, Syracuse University, Bo Ryan, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Paul Hewitt, Georgia Tech, Ron Hunter, Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis, Phil Martelli, St. Joseph's University, Herb Sendek, Arizona State University.

Certainly this group of coaches cuts across wide swathes of the college basketball landscape and all are leaders or up and coming leaders in the National Association of Basketball Coaches. All of these coaches have two things in common. None currently have teams who are even close to being ranked in the Top 10 percentile of the NCAA's 2005-06 Academic Progress Rate Public Report. None have better graduation rates than their female counterparts at their respective schools.

I certainly respect the careers of all of these gentlemen but do they have the answers on this particular subject?

According to the NCAA's Division I 2005-2006 Academic Progress Rate Public Record:

·         Syracuse ranks in the 60th-70th percentile in Division I men's basketball which means that 30-40% of the teams competing at the Division I level have better academic progress rates.

·         Georgia Tech ranks in the 60th-70th percentile in Division I men's basketball which means that 30-40% of the teams competing at the Division I level have better academic progress rates.

·         University of Wisconsin-Madison ranks in the 50th-60th percentile in Division I men's basketball which means that 40-50% of the teams competing at the Division I level have better academic progress rates.

·         St. Joseph's University ranks in the 40th-50th percentile in Division I men's basketball which means that 50-60% of the teams competing at the Division I level have better academic progress rates.

·         Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis ranks in the 40th-50th percentile in Division I men's basketball which means that 50-60% of the teams competing at the Division I level have better academic progress rates.

·         Arizona State University ranks in the 10th-20th percentile in Division I men's basketball which means that 80-90% of the teams competing at the Division I level have better academic progress rates. Note: Herb Sendek formerly coached at NC State which performed respectably in the 60th-70th percentile range.

·         Tennessee State University ranks in the 1st-10th percentile in Division I men's basketball which means that 90-100% of the teams competing at the Division I level have better academic progress rates.

It is true that out of all 29 NCAA sponsored sports, men's basketball is the worst performing academic group in those student-athlete groups according to these official NCAA numbers. It is also true that the seven men's basketball programs listed above, all perform academically in the bottom third or worse compared to all other NCAA Division I athletic teams. It is also true that in every case that their counterparts, the women's basketball teams at these same universities are superior in academic performance by rather large margins. Just look at the scoreboard according to the Federal Graduation Rate Trends for Division I from 1996-99:

·         Overall Graduation Rates from 1996-99 according to NCAA:

o   Women's basketball players graduated 65% of their players while men's basketball players graduated at a 45% rate.

·         Academic Progress Reports (APR's) for men's basketball teams vs. the average for women's basketball teams:

o   Men's basketball players scored a 927 overall average across their sport vs. a 960 score for women's basketball players. Note: The 927 score represents the worst performance in all of the NCAA among 29 NCAA sponsored sports.

According to the NCAA Graduation Success Rates from 1996-99:

·         Syracuse men's basketball players graduated at a 75% rate vs. 100% on the women's side.

·         Georgia Tech men's basketball players graduated at a 42% rate vs. 64% on the women's side.

·         University of Wisconsin-Madison men's basketball players graduated at a 64% rate vs. 80% on the women's side.

·         St. Joseph's men's basketball players graduated at a 75% rate vs. 85% on the women's side.

·         Indiana University-Purdue University at Indianapolis men's basketball players graduated at a 46% rate vs. 76% on the women's side.

·         Arizona State University men's basketball players graduated at a 31% rate vs. 82% on the women's side.

·         Tennessee State University men's basketball players graduated at an 88% rate vs. 100% on the women's side.

Let's assume that these male and female student-athletes who play the same sport at the same universities are going to basically the same blocks of classes taught by a similar group of professors. Let's assume that they practice the same amount of time at the same facilities and are all supervised by their different but similarly competitive coaches.

On Myles Brand's twenty-seven member panel there is only one female who also happens to be a former women's basketball coach, Dr. Debbie Yow who is the Director of Athletics at the University of Maryland. And, by the way the Terrapins have their own issues in men's basketball with a Graduation Success Rate of 18% from 1996-99 while the women…you guessed right…graduated at a 71% clip.

So what does all of this mean and how can the NCAA better address this issue? Based on the numbers and the history of men's basketball I can tell you that appointing a twenty-seven member committee is not the answer. Twenty-seven member committees may start out with a goal of creating the next perfect academic strategy and end up with the perfect cure for athlete's foot. Large committees of this sort take years to create a document that is long on verbiage and short on practical answers. In fact, this committee is scheduled to report its findings and recommendations in 2008! One full year to address this issue with more long-winded rhetoric and politically correct phrases that are thrust upon us one more time with the same old results?

Those of us who love this sport have waited long enough for the NCAA bureaucrats and its committees to find answers. Now is the time to act and act aggressively!

Therefore, I submit an alternative strategy:

ASK THE WOMEN'S COACHES WHAT WORKS FOR THEM!

Pat Summitt at Tennessee just won another National Championship. She graduated 100% of her players in the 1996-99 evaluation vs. 18% of the Tennessee men's players over the same period. Geno Auriemma at Connecticut graduated 91% of his players vs. 30% on the men's side. They both have won multiple national titles, they both send their players to the professional ranks and they both graduate their players! These women's basketball coaches and their players are either smarter, more ethical or both!

LET'S JUST ASK THEM AND FORGET ABOUT THE TWENTY-SEVEN MEMBER BLUE RIBBON PANEL TO SOLVE THE POOR PERFORMANCE OF THE MEN"S BASKETBALL PLAYERS!

As an outsider looking in on a sport I once coached I can honestly say that men's basketball has lost its collective conscience. Money is everything and the NCAA men's basketball members and their coaches as a group all know it. College basketball coaches are driven to win because winning takes care of everything…money, recruiting, job security and even cheating!

Until the consequences of poor academic performance, cheating and unethical behavior become more severe than losing games, men's basketball will face the same under-performing academic outputs and scandals as it has faced for decades. Men's basketball needs a cultural change. The culture of women's basketball is a good place to start where the large majority of ethical coaches still hold their players accountable for their collective behavior on and off the court. Women's basketball still has a soul and no twenty-seven member NCAA committee can give back to men's basketball their collective hoops soul. Never send a boy to do a man's job and in this case the ‘Good Old Boys' are less needed than ever.

All we need to do to solve this issue is to simply look at the success stories taking place a few offices away in every athletic department across America. All we need to do is ask a good-hearted women's basketball coach for a little guidance and then do what they do with passion, morals and ethics!

Mark Adams is a college basketball analyst on the ESPN family of networks.  


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