Saturday, January 18, 2003

Huggins defends UC's grad rates


Proposed rule rewards schools with high marks

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins expressed reservations Friday about proposed legislation that would use graduation rates as a criterion for NCAA Tournament participation and the number of scholarships a school can award.

"All schools are different," Huggins said. "The standards are different. If I were the president of a university, I'd be appalled if they came in and tried to tell me how to run my university. Different universities have different missions. We don't give degrees. People earn degrees here."

UC's program under Huggins long has been the target of those who say college basketball doesn't do a good job of graduating its players. The school has worked hard to change that image.

Last year, for example, four players - Leonard Stokes, who's still a member of the program - Rodney Crawford, Donald Little and Jimmy Hubbard received their degrees.

According to UC's media guide, 17 players - nearly half of those who have completed their eligibility under Huggins - earned their degrees.

But a USA Today story this week about the proposed legislation said it targeted schools such as Cincinnati, Memphis and Oklahoma.

"How can a guy say that?" Huggins said, referring to the newspaper story. "We graduated four guys last year. We had the highest grade-point average in Conference USA."

Huggins objects to graduation rates that count only those players who graduate within six years, the current rate used by the NCAA.

"They can do whatever they want to do," Huggins said. "But I thought the whole thing was supposed to be for the betterment of the student-athlete. That's why we do this.

"I've been opposed to this being a race. If a kid has an opportunity to go experience Europe and make a lot of money and then come back and finish his degree, what's wrong with that?"

Huggins said he would prefer to have people who are intimately involved with student-athletes making decisions about rules.

"We've got conference commissioners making decisions, and they're not even on campus," Huggins said. "I think we need to give control back to the athletic directors. Basically, what we're saying is that we don't trust the athletic directors."

UC athletic director Bob Goin, while not commenting on the specific legislation, said he would prefer to see the NCAA re-institute freshman teams.

Under his plan, freshmen would be ineligible but would practice and maybe even play a small schedule of games under the guidance of an assistant coach would help them with their adjustment to the academic and social demands of college.

They would then have four years of eligibility remaining after their freshman year.

E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com




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