Lorde observes NBA game as an objective observer

Music star Lorde attended a recent Chicago Bulls game and sent these tweets while at the game:

i am at a bulls game this is so intense how does everyone in this room not have a stress ulcer

— Lorde (@lordemusic) March 18, 2014

i am such an outsider to the world of sport but i feel very proud of all playing

— Lorde (@lordemusic) March 18, 2014

the cheerleaders are doing synchronized movements to small pieces of drum-based instrumental music

— Lorde (@lordemusic) March 18, 2014

in the break they rolled out a red carpet on the court and a man did some tricks with his dog

— Lorde (@lordemusic) March 18, 2014

This presents an intriguing opportunity to compare how the average American sports fan would view things opposed to an outsider. For sports fans, it is easy to think of all they see as “natural:” the players just do what they do, the fans respond in certain ways, and the stadium experience is fairly similar across the United States. However, it is easy to forget that all of this “natural” behavior or knowledge is all learned. The whole American sports/entertainment package has a fairly set course from sports talk radio to how it is presented on television to how it is experienced live.

In her first experience at a NBA game, Lorde was simply describing what she saw. None of it is wrong and she is making “common sense” observations that might make little sense to non-fans. Why would there be a man with a dog doing tricks during the break? Why are stadium experiences in the US so intense (loud, constant videos)? Why do cheerleaders do what they do? The average sports fan may not even have good answers to these questions; those things happen because that is the way it has always happened. Of course, that is not true: sports experiences can differ widely based on contexts and history.

In this way, an outsider can bring needed perspective to a social norm many of us just take for granted. Is Lorde’s view of the NBA game more objective than those who have lots of basketball knowledge and experience?

Long tail: 17% of the seven foot tall men between ages 20 and 40 in the US play in the NBA

As part of dissecting whether Shaq can really fit in a Buick Lacrosse (I’ve asked this myself when watching the commercial), Car & Driver drops in this little statistic about men in the United States who are seven feet tall:

The population of seven-footers is infinitesimal. In 2011, Sports Illustrated estimated that there are fewer than 70 men between the ages of 20 and 40 in the United States who stand seven feet or taller. A shocking 17 percent of them play in the NBA.

In the distribution of heights in the United States, being at least seven feet tall is quite unusual and at the far right side of a fairly normal distribution. But, being that tall increases the odds of playing in the NBA by quite a lot. As a Forbes post suggests, “Being 7 Feet Tall [may be] the Fastest Way To Get Rich in America“:

Drawing on Centers for Disease Control data, Sports Illustrated‘s Pablo Torre estimated that no more than 70 American men are between the ages of 20 and 40 and at least 7 feet tall. “While the probability of, say, an American between 6’6? and 6’8? being an NBA player today stands at a mere 0.07%, it’s a staggering 17% for someone 7 feet or taller,” Torre writes.

(While that claim might seem like a tall tale, more than 42 U.S.-born players listed at 7 feet did debut in NBA games between 1993 and 2013. Even accounting for the typical 1-inch inflation in players’ listed heights would still mean that 15 “true” 7-footers made it to the NBA, out of Torre’s hypothetical pool of about 70 men.)…

And given the market need for players who can protect the rim, there are extra rewards for this extra height. The league’s median player last season was 6 feet 7 inches tall, and paid about $2.5 million for his service. But consider the rarified air of the 7-footer-and-up club. The average salary of those 35 NBA players: $6.1 million.

(How much does one more inch matter? The 39 players listed at 6 feet 11 inches were paid an average of $4.9 million, or about 20% less than the 7 footers.)

Standing as an outlier at the far end of the distribution seems to pay off in this case.

Discussing why a professional sports team would adopt the name the Pelicans

It appears the New Orleans Hornets will adopt a new name: the Pelicans. Here is some discussion on TrueHoop about the meaning of the name and other names that were in the running:

And yet, if you put a gun to my head and said: Come up with a funny name for a minor league baseball team I’d say “Pelicans” and I’d worry that it wasn’t realistic. Like, what owner would name his team for an unathletic bird noted for how much marine life it can carry in its big mouth?

In terms of specifically dissecting the Pelican and noting its awkwardness, I think that is fair, but I think the qualities of the bird do not necessarily translate into the perception of the team. Magic is not the “sportiest” of names. It’s either weak in some sense or cheating (is there a rule against sorcery?), right?

Not to pick on the Magic, of course. The Celtics aren’t meant to be pagans. The Knickerbockers don’t have people’s unsundry parts in them. Those names are “made” by their legacies. It is the duty of every franchise to build that legacy to overcome all of these, at first, imperfect names. And upon the fanbase. They have to “own it,” to use the parlance of our time.

People in New Orleans dislike change, but they love New Orleans. There’s nothing like some hate from north of I-10 to get some New Orleanians to love what those “Yankees” hate.

It’ll work.

And a quick look at three other possible names:

The colors were purple, red and black primarily, they had the voodoo dolls, the graveyard, bones and mojo for mascots, and more. It was fantastic, local, recognizable, edgy. Voodoo is currently owned by the new AFL, as Benson folded his team prior the older AFL folding. The Shreveport-Bossier City Battlewings (north Louisiana for those playing the home game) moved here, donning Voodoo garb. This was at least one obstruction to this…

Krewe was another good choice. “Krewe of X” is used to describe the people in parades in many cases (I was Krewe of Endymion after the Super Bowl, for instance). This has clear cultural relevance and built-in mascots, branding, etc. It would be a beacon for those three people who’ve never heard of Mardi Gras. Krewe of New Orleans … the party has arrived.

Brass was another good name. It’s evocative of Jazz, and was the name of an ECHL team (minor league hockey) here in New Orleans (yes, really) that folded shortly after the Hornets relocation. You can write the branding for it quite easily.

I suspect this analysis is right: local fans could get used to all sorts of names over time. I would assume that winning more would make a sports team name more permanent. While there may have been other reasons for these switches, think of the Charlotte Bobcats and the Washington Wizards. Perhaps some cities are even better suited than others to adopt stranger or more local names. And yes, a number of professional pro sports team names don’t make a lot of sense given their current context and era. For people who like local color, it is almost too bad sports teams aren’t required to have names that match their current community. Finding the best local names could be a fascinating exercise…

But I wonder if this is part of a larger shift in the names of sports teams away from fierce animals or creatures. Just as first names in the United States can change (here is a sociologist talking about the decline of the name Mary but the resurgence of the name Emma), the names of sports teams can change. Think of the new team names in the four major sports in the last two decades and it is an odd collection of old-style and new names. This may have to do with branding: new kinds of names offer new opportunities. Take the Oklahoma City Thunder. Their name is not shared by another team in the four major sports and is not found too frequently elsewhere. It could lead to all sorts of new marketing opportunities though it might be difficult to come up with appropriate mascots and train copy editors to use the name correctly.

Of course, one innovation of the future could be that more American sports team adopt corporate names. This could be a lucrative revenue stream.

A new statistic to measure chemistry in basketball

Team chemistry is an elusive concept to measure but three “quantitative traders in the financial world” have developed a new statistic they say tackles the subject:

We introduce a novel Skills Plus Minus (“SPM”) framework to measure on-court chemistry in basketball. First, we evaluate each player’s offense and defense in the SPM framework based on three basic categories of skills: scoring, rebounding, and ball-handling. We then simulate games using the skill ratings of the ten players on the court. The results of the simulations measure the effectiveness of individual players as well as the 5-player lineup, so we can then calculate the synergies of each NBA team by comparing their 5-player lineup’s effectiveness to the “sum-of-the-parts.” We find that these synergies can be large and meaningful. Because skills have different synergies with other skills, our framework predicts that a player’s value is dependent on the other nine players on the court. Therefore, the desirability of a free agent depends on the players currently on the roster. Indeed, our framework is able to generate mutually beneficial trades between teams…

The research team pored over a ton of data, ran countless simulations and looked at how many points certain combinations of skills created…

One pattern that emerged was that “rare events” (like steals/defensive ball-handling) tended to produce positive synergies, while “common events” (like defensive rebounds) produce negative synergies. How come? Because increasing a team’s rebounding rate from 70 percent of defensive rebounds (which would be lousy) to, say, 75 percent (very good) represents only a 7 percent increase. But upping offensive rebounds, which aren’t nearly as common as defensive rebounds, from a rate of 30 percent to 35 percent represents a robust 17 percent gain…

Figuring out the component parts of what we know as chemistry or synergy is one of the next great frontiers of this movement. It’s not enough to put an exceptional distributor on the floor. To maximize that point guard’s gifts, a team must surround him with the right combination of players — and that combination might not always be the sexiest free agents on the market.

Sports has so much data to pore over that researchers could be occupied with for a long time.

This particular question is fascinating because one could get a lot of answers to why certain five player units are successful from different actors such as coaches, players, commentators, and fans. Players might be easier to assess (ha – look at all the issues with drafting) but looking at units requires sharp analytical skills and an overall view of a team.

Which team(s) will be the first to utilize this statistic and really build team units rather than cobble together a number of good players and then try to squeeze the best out of them? Certain players who might be considered “busts” may simply be in the wrong systems and be the “missing piece” for another team.

How technology may lessen a team’s chemistry

Technology receives a lot of attention but I haven’t seen this brought up before: technology may be making it more difficult to athletic teams to bond.

Ask many coaches, general managers and older players and you’ll hear a common gripe: chemistry on teams has been altered because of modern technology, and not for the better. The rise of smartphones, with all their instant-communication and entertainment options, have created insular worlds into which distracted players too often retreat instead of bonding with teammates.

Coaches and managers are particularly frustrated at the paradox of players fraternizing less with their own teammates, and more with the “enemy.” Players from opposing teams, they say, too often get each other’s cellphone numbers and start calling or texting back and forth, often griping about playing time and occassionally giving up little secrets about their teams…

Major League Baseball is one sport where the chemistry effects of smartphones, iPads, iPods and other handheld devices might be thought to be minimal, because of the longer workdays and more enclosed environs (dugouts, bullpens, clubhouses). Not necessarily so, according to Colorado Rockies manager Jim Tracy. When the game is over, he says, players quickly rejoin their private, smartphone worlds…

Some NFL teams are said to be contemplating outright bans on smartphones during any “team time” activities, and some coaches have spoken with exasperation at competing with phones for players’ attention. Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, for instance, told ESPN 101 radio in St. Louis the difficulties of dealing with phone-obsessed players such as former Washington tackle Albert Haynesworth.

I’m tempted to argue that this is simply the outcome of having multiple generations in the clubhouse or locker room: an older generation, particularly coaches and managers, had a particular experience in the past and younger players have a different way of going about things. Perhaps it would be more interesting to talk to younger coaches who are more into technology themselves and ask how they try to build team chemistry. Of course, the topic of team chemistry is open for debate. To me, it seems like it is only really an issue when a team is losing and people are looking for reasons why.

The article does suggest that at least a few veteran athletes have adopted informal/player-directed guidelines for technology use in the clubhouse. I wonder if they have encountered some resistance or whether the spirit of such actions, to “help the team,” is reason enough for other players to comply.

Two other quick thoughts:

1. This could also be interpreted as an indicator of the professionalization of athletes. While athletes in the past might have enjoyed the camaraderie of interacting before and after games, today’s athletes have more personal leeway as most work all-year round and make big money. What matters most (or at all) is their performance on the field/court/ice.

2. The article also hints at how technology has changed how players prepare for games. It is now easy and common for athletes to be able to watch lots of video on their own, theoretically giving them some advantages.

The problem with using averages as illustrated by the average salaries of NBA players

In negotiations between NBA owners and players, the topic of the “average player salary” has come up. This discussion illustrates some of the issues involved with  using averages and medians:

Here is the “average player salary” for each of the major U.S. professional team sports, based on a variety of sources using the most recent data available:

NBA: $5.15 million (2010-11)

MLB: $3.34 million (2010)

NHL: $2.4 million (2010-11)

NFL: $1.9 million (2010)

From the public’s view, these numbers are high in all four sports. But players and agents argue that these averages obscure important distinctions including the value of certain positions over others (the quarterback in the NFL versus the punter) and the size of the roster (fewer NBA players, more NFL players).

One common solution to problems with averages is to instead use a median. Here is how this might change the discussion in the NBA:

“It’s the median salary that’s more important,” NBA agent Bill Duffy said. “Look at the Miami Heat as an analogy here: You’ve got three guys making $17 million and probably six guys making $1.2 [million]. So that’s a little misguided, that average salary.”…

It is not unlike, Duffy said, news stories that cite the “average” U.S. household income as opposed to the median. The latter figure, according to the most recent U.S. census, was $50,233. If you were to average in the dollar amounts pulled down by Wall Street bankers, Ivy League lawyers, certain public-union employees and yes, professional athletes, that number would jump considerably.

Curiously, neither the NBA nor the NBPA seems to make much use of a median player salary.

“We use [average] because it’s the most commonly used measure and best reflects the amount of compensation that the NBA provides to players across the league,” an NBA spokesman said this week. “In addition, it’s the measure that both we and the union agreed upon in the CBA.”

In the NFL, the median salary is approximately $770,000 — about 40 percent of the average.

In the NBA, using USA Today salary figures for the 2009-10 season, the estimated median salary was about $2.33 million. That’s still about 46 times what the median U.S. household earns, but it is less than half what the max-salary-bloated “average” is.

What happens in these sports is this: a small number of star athletes make huge amounts of money, pulling the average for all athletes up. If you use the median instead, where 50% of the players make more and 50% more make less, it suggests that more of the athletes in each sport make less. Particularly in the NFL which has bigger rosters, the difference between the average and the median shows that many players make very little.

It is interesting that the NBA spokesman said the two sides had agreed in their Collective Bargaining Agreement that they would use the average salary figure. Was this really a point of contention negotiations or did no one really think about the consequences? What was the thinking behind this for the players? If the union was focused on helping all of their members, perhaps they would focus on the median, suggesting that they are strongest when all of their members are well taken care of. This lower figure might also look more palatable to the public though it is unclear whether public perceptions have any influence on such negotiations. However, if the union was more interested in making sure that individual athletes could receive the biggest possible payouts because of their athletic exploits, then perhaps the average is better.

Two takeaway points:

1. Averages and medians are both measures of central tendency but they are open to different interpretations. People need to be clear about which they are using and which interpretation their number interprets.

2. It will be interesting to see if the new CBA is based on average or median salaries.

Thinking about the lack of outdoor basketball courts, Part 2

Yesterday, I wrote about a discussion a friend and I had about what we perceive as a lack of decent outdoor basketball courts. Perhaps we aren’t the only ones who think this is an issue. Here are the thoughts of one writer in Burlington, North Carolina:

One thing I’ve noticed as an adult is that there are fewer outdoor courts than there used to be. There’s not a single one in my neighborhood, which does have a pool, tennis courts, fields, walking trails, a lake and a playground. Those portable goals you find along streets in the suburbs don’t count.

I don’t know if residential developers at some point came to see basketball courts as hotbeds for malfeasance, but I think it’s ridiculous that in the middle of one of the three-most basketball-crazed states in the Union I can’t walk to a basketball court from my house.

Here is another example from a writer in Lima, Ohio, though he seems to be referring also to basketball hoops in driveways:

Taking my game to Bradfield was not exactly breaking down a barrier, but it was a difficult step for a 15 year old looking for the best competition in the city. I sat on the sidelines for two days before one of the older players, Cleo Vaughn, picked me for his team. Vaughn, whose own athletic odyssey was stuff of dreams, took me under his wing and I owe much of my own emergence as a player to his guidance. Cleo began picking me up in his car and taking me to courts all over the city. Each one of these basketball courts was unique and presented its own challenges.

Whittier playground offered great full-court games with a colorful and vocal crowd of onlookers but if you lost, you were forced to wait for hours because there were so many young players waiting their turn. The most physical games could be found at Mizpah Mission in the deep south end. There was only a single basket there at the time, but those three-on-three games were the most intense in the city. You could always find a great game at Northside playground but the courts were so long it felt like you had run a marathon when the game ended. And there were many other great outdoor venues, all unique in their own design and makeup.

But my favorite courts remained the outdoor courts at Bradfield Center and the most memorable times were the nights that the flame from the Standard Oil Refinery was turned up full blast and the light it shed was powerful enough to allow us to play late into the evenings and avoid the heat of midday.

Both of these stories talk about particular places and are also tinged with nostalgia. These columnists have good memories of playing on outdoor courts and now see fewer young adults playing on outside courts. The first writer suggests developers may not be interested in building courts while the second suggests kids grow up playing indoors in organized sports rather than free-wheeling games in driveways or neighborhood parks.

Of course, this is anecdotal evidence and these two columnists disagree about the cause of this.

The problem may not just be limited to the United States: here is an online petition signed by 554 people asking for at least one nice outdoor basketball court in all Australian cities:

Kids around Australia, as well as teenagers and young adults, always email us (MSF) and tell us that the new highschool court in their area is closed after school hours… so what’s the point of having a facility when the local youth can’t use it to it’s full potential? Where’s the night lights? Where’s the support for the people who want to play sports instead of hanging out with friends at nightclubs or at home playing video games? not just at night though, we’re talking about during the day also. The youth do not have enough positive recreational facilities to unite at. And if there are a few, the basketball courts are usually ALWAYS the cheapest and worst quality that end up steering kids away. Fact.

Our proposition; on behalf of millions of other Australians; build ONE Superior outdoor basketball court in each Australian City… central to all suburbs. Close to transport. Secure and Safe. Night lights. Open 24 hours. The highest standard of ring systems and surface. And then you will all see; the Domino Effect. These superior outdoor courts will become populated with positivity and energy; believe it. And once it succeeds in one community, other communities and councils will follow in these footsteps.

It is interesting that this petition tries to flip Reason #1 for fewer basketball courts (they create more problems with the people they attract) on its head by suggesting these courts are actually helpful in combating other social problems. If kids play on outdoor courts, they are not just sitting around playing video games and they are not getting into more active trouble elsewhere. If this argument is correct, could this then a NIMBY issue where immediate neighbors don’t want the basketball courts even though the courts would benefit society as a whole? If this is what happens, the neighbors win out, courts can’t be built near where people actually live, and fewer communities decide to build outdoor courts overall. Parks themselves, basketball courts or not, can become NIMBY sites as their public space threatens nearby public space.

(At least New York City claims to have plenty of outdoor courts: “There are hundreds of outdoor courts in New York City. In the basketball capital of the world, it’s possible to find a game within walking distance of any location. Recreation Centers in all five boroughs have indoor courts as well.”)

Thinking about the lack of outdoor basketball courts, Part 1

While playing basketball during good weather on a popular outdoor court, a friend and I discussed what we perceive to be an issue: a lack of well-built outdoor basketball courts. To be well-built, we don’t ask for much: decent basketball poles and backboards, a decent court surface, and somewhat close to a regulation court size (and I have seen a number of courts that don’t meet one or more of these conditions). While I don’t have hard evidence that there is a lack of basketball courts (outside of personal experience living within a rather populated suburban area), here are some reasons why there may not be very many:

1. Basketball courts attract a certain kind of crowd: young men who can be loud and who might loiter around waiting for a game. This could be problematic for nearby suburban neighbors.

2. Basketball courts could be a liability risk for communities. People can run into poles, hang on the rim, suffer injuries on the concrete, etc. (I suspect this could be a problem for all sorts of outdoor equipment but I’m sure communities are prepared for this.)

3. Basketball courts could be expensive to maintain. The surface has to be pretty good because cracks aren’t great for dribbling. Nice nets would be helpful but these have to be replaced. (I can’t see how this would be that more expensive than maintaining a tennis court, however.)

4. Basketball courts are safer to monitor and maintain inside or in the driveway. Kids can be watched more closely. Indoors, the courts don’t get wet and players can’t loiter or throw litter in the sight of local residents in the same way. (Indoor courts can often require money, particularly if attached to a health club or park district. While these courts are often nicer, there is still something about playing outside – as long as the temperature is reasonable.)

5. There may not be much public outcry for basketball courts. The National Association of Sporting Goods has some numbers about basketball participation in 2010: 26.9 million Americans played more than once and this is 13th on the list of activities (though this includes non-exercise activities such as camping and fishing). According to 2008 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, of the “16% of persons who engaged in any sports or exercise activity on an average day,” 5.1% played basketball. And in a later chart looking at the same 16%, more 15-24 year-old people engaged in basketball than any other activity.

My friend was firmly for reason #1. Perhaps the closest equivalent I can think of are skate parks. Proposals for these recreational sites often draw interesting public reactions because of the crowd they attract.

Several pieces of data could shed light on whether this hypothesis is correct:

1. It would be interesting to see where basketball courts are typically built. Poorer or richer neighborhoods? Near homes or elsewhere?

2. How does the number of outdoor basketball courts compare to the number of outdoor tennis courts?

3. Who exactly pushes for basketball courts? Are outdoor basketball courts typically included in proposals for parks from developers or municipalities? Do residents have to make a suggestion?

I don’t know if any of this data exists. In Part 2 tomorrow, I will look at a few recent commentators that make their own argument about why there are not many outdoor basketball courts.

The conservative musical selections at Chicago Bulls games

While I think this Chicago Tribune piece about the DJs at Chicago Bulls games was supposed to provide a behind-the-scenes look at how musical selections are made, the real crux of the story seems to be that the music selections are quite conservative:

Every Bulls game at the United Center has its own soundtrack. Just as each game is different, roller coasters of emotions and shifting fortunes, the music and sound effects roll with the changes. A team of about 20 technicians plays DJ each night at the United Center, accenting the ebbs and surges on the floor.

The head DJ is Jeff Wohlschlaeger, the Bulls’ senior director of game operations, who sits courtside and communicates on a headset to music and scoreboard operators to wed sounds and game action. There are cavalry-charge bugle calls and countless ways of imploring “De-Fense,” but there are also more than 1,000 songs and song snippets available to enhance every movement and mood…

When the home team has the ball, just about anything goes. Nothing is explicitly banned, but all teams know they’re programming for a family-friendly event, so songs deemed the least bit salacious or provocative won’t be tolerated, the NBA says. Teams that bend the rules often end up paying for it. The NBA’s “Game Operations” department monitors every game; one source in the office said that at least two NBA franchises were fined in the last month for inappropriate sound and video while the visiting team was on offense.

The Bulls don’t push the envelope by design, Wohlschlaeger says. The music selections are “conservative,” reflecting a mix of classic rock and contemporary pop hits that is determined by audience surveys. During Game 2 of the Hawks series, songs leading out of timeouts designed to get the crowd pumped included the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!),” AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” John Mellencamp’s “Authority Song” and Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels’ “Devil With a Blue Dress On.”…

Mostly, it’s about what the paying customers want, Wohlschlaeger says, “tried and true stuff that you or I would never listen to in a car, but that gets a positive reaction from the fans.”

On one hand, the article suggests that the DJs have a lot of music and sound effects at their disposal and try to respond to the action on the floor. On the other hand, it sounds clear that the actual music/effects played is quite limited in order to please the NBA and the fans. I can’t quite say why I find this depressing: it still sounds like an intriguing job but at the same time, much of it sounds scripted. For example, the article mentions the playing of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” which every Bulls fan who has watched a game this year or in recent years knows is played during a timeout with about 4-6 minutes left in the game. So all of this is simply canned, fan-friendly entertainment?

I wonder if there are any pro sports teams who are known for pushing the envelope a bit more in their musical selections. Does everyone play the same stuff that the DJs “would never listen to in a car” but they think is safe for fans? Having attended a number of San Francisco Giants games over the last 10 years or so, I know they play a lot more salsa music, fitting in with the atmosphere of the Bay Area. Some baseball stadiums have music for individual home team players when they come up to the plate. There may not be the same opportunities for other sports though perhaps music could be introduced in situations when they make a reception or step up to the free throw line or at other points.

Of course, perhaps this is just good business: don’t alienate your fan base that can afford to go to NBA basketball games. Change up the music too much or make it too edgy

If President Obama kicked teams out of the NCAA tournament for low graduation rates

The discussion over the graduation rates of men’s basketball players on NCAA tournament teams has grown in recent years. One columnist wondered what President Obama might say if he addressed the issue:

“While nine of every 10 white players graduate on the top-32-seeded men’s teams, only five of every 10 black players graduate. As an African American, I am personally outraged that 21 of the 68 men’s teams have black player graduation rates ranging from 44 percent down to zero.

“Thus, beginning today, I will do my bracket with this new stipulation: I will not write in your team if either your team or black player graduation rate is under 50 percent.

“This decision is not an easy one to make for a basketball purist. It leaves out nearly a third of the teams, including prestigious programs that account for 10 of the last 21 titles. It is with regret that I will leave blank spots for Syracuse, Indiana State, Missouri, Southern Cal, Michigan State, Tennessee, Florida, Nevada-Las Vegas, UC-Santa Barbara, Michigan, Morehead State, Kentucky, Georgia, Temple, Connecticut, Alabama-Birmingham, Texas, Washington, Arizona, Kansas State, and Akron…”

If Education Secretary Arne Duncan already made a similar suggestion, why not the President, who is an avid basketball fan and fills out men’s and women’s brackets on TV?

This is a complex issue that the NCAA doesn’t seem to want to talk about. Instead, they would rather run commercials (one example here) saying that “most [college athletes] go pro in something other than sports.” This may be true in many sports but there are racial gaps in a number of schools in both men’s basketball and football (read about troubles at Auburn here), the major revenue-generating sports.