In the 2011 NCAA Championship, the University of Connecticut beat the #8 seed Butler. The score was 53-41. Uconn star Kemba Walker was outstanding. He was destined for the NBA and his play definitely lived up to the hype. Uconn is a fantastic basketball school. The program has churned out multiple NBA prospects and has been one of the winningest college programs in history.
The data doesn’t lie. Uconn is the 8th winningest program in NCAA Division 1 history. They have commandeered 28 regular season championships, seven conference tournaments and three elusive NCAA Division 1 Championships. If you are a college basketball prospect and you want to win, Uconn is the place to be. If you are a college basketball fan, Uconn is the team to watch.
March Madness describes the frenzy associated with the high intensity playoff basketball games. There is nothing like it. Thousands of student athletes put it all on the line to win college basketball’s biggest prize. It’s better than any play by Shakespeare. There is tragedy, romance and drama. The fan’s scream, the players cry and we breathlessly watch. It truly is March Madness.
However, for Uconn and several other schools, it’s March Madness for a different reason. In 2012 University of Connecticut men’s college basketball program achieved another not so lofty accomplishment. The NCAA released data that showed that Uconn graduated a whopping 11% of their basketball student athletes. The number was so bad, the program was placed on academic probation.
Uconn was fantastic at training athletes, but they forget that they were training student athletes. They were tremendous at preparing athletes bodies, but they forgot they had to prepare their minds. There were a few that were able to capitalize on the million dollar professional basketball lottery, but how many people win the lottery. Again, the data doesn’t lie.
What message are we giving to our kids? What priorities are we conveying? How many of us are going to count on winning the lottery? Athletics are important and they are necessary for the development of our student athletes. But, we have to remember they are student athletes. Our college coaches make millions. Our college professors teach millions. The student athletes get lost in the fray.
Before you fill out your bracket, take a moment to consider this. As you watch the games, think of where these young men may end up. As you watch the fans screaming for the home team, force yourself to wonder. What do we really mean when we say “March Madness?”