5.3.07

ON! WISCONSIN! More reason, as if I needed any, to put my full support behind the men's basketball team at Wisconsin.

"Our student-athletes are students first," Wisconsin Chancellor John Wiley tells correspondent Bernard Goldberg. "They are students first, athletes second."

Goldberg mentions the success the team has enjoyed this season, including being ranked No. 1 in the nation. "And they have done it all without a hint of scandal with players who actually graduate," Goldberg says.

Goldberg cites the graduation rates at programs where basketball players are not expected to graduate: New Mexico (7%), Georgia (9%) and Iowa State (12%).

"In fact, of the top 10 ranked college basketball teams in the country right now, fewer than 50% of the players graduate," Goldberg reports.

But at Wisconsin, 64% of the basketball players get their degrees. Alando Tucker, the Badgers' best player, is expected to graduate this spring.

Goldberg refers to coach Bo Ryan as "the most successful coach in college basketball you have never heard of."

Goldberg asks Ryan what happens when he finds himself recruiting a "really, really good" player who is not interested in education and makes no effort to hide it.

"There have been young men who have come here and while the professor or the dean of one of the schools was talking to him, he was text messaging," Ryan said. "We just stopped recruiting the kid."

Ryan said there are "a couple of guys" like that who have joined other programs that the Badgers play or will play. Ryan did not identify these players.

The broadcast, unfortunately, ran on pay-per-view.

In other basketball notes, let me commend the Big Ten for keeping its tournaments on a fairly tight schedule. The Mid-American women's tournament, by contrast, began last Sunday with the winner to be determined Saturday. That means the players on the more successful teams will be away from class for a full week. (Graduation rates in excess of 90% are common in women's basketball, disruption of their studies notwithstanding.) In addition, they are confined to Cleveland for a week, which is cruel and unusual punishment with Cedar Point and Geauga Lake closed until May.

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