ANOTHER VIEW: Cal's grad rate tough to bear

Excerpted from Thursday's San Jose Mercury News:

Cal touts itself as one of the finest academic institutions in America. But the graduation rate of its men's basketball team, 20 percent, is a national embarrassment.

If U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had his way, the Bears would be ineligible for their highly anticipated March Madness appearance today.

Duncan is gaining support for his recommendation that teams with graduation rates lower than 40 percent be banned from postseason play. He doesn't have the power to impose that rule, but if the NCAA doesn't demand improvement from its worst offenders, perhaps he should.

Cal's graduation rate is the second-lowest of the 65 teams in the NCAA Division I tournament, according to the NCAA report released Tuesday. Only Maryland (8 percent) is worse.

The NCAA's formula looks at whether athletes who started college from 1999 to 2002 had graduated within six years.

Cal's performance is the polar opposite of another Bay Area team that begins NCAA tournament play this week: The Stanford women's basketball team has a 100 percent graduation rate.