Former Maryland player and U.S. Congressman Tom McMillen says coaches should be paid based on the academic success of their students. (Phil Sears/AP)

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, former Maryland basketball star and U.S. Congressman Tom McMillen said the salaries of NCAA coaches should be based on the academic and athletic accomplishments of their student-athletes, rather than merely on how their teams perform on the court or field.

Speaking along with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and others, McMillen said that, upon examining the contracts of coaches at Maryland and elsewhere, he was surprised to find such a wide gulf between incentives given to coaches for athletic success and rewards for their teams’ achievement in the classroom.

McMillen called for the “better balance” of these contracts, based off academic performance and graduation rates, and suggested “contractual callbacks, where a coach leaves a school and the school would have a callback to recover some of the salary and bonuses when they’ve had an issue involving the school under the predecessor’s reign.”

“We think coaches are critically important,” said McMillen, who was joined on the call by Duncan, NAACP President Ben Jealous and Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida. “They set the culture, and I think this issue is one that deserves better attention.”

Said Jealous: “Ultimately, these universities hold their coaches and athletic directors accountable to leading student-athletes as student-athletes. There should be no incentive to a coach who succeeds on the court and yet failed his players off the court. There should be no incentive given to an athletic director who has ‘successful teams’ but players who are failing their classes.”

Lapchick’s organization recently released its latest study on the graduation success rates of the teams participating in the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments. The overall graduation success rate for men’s basketball jumped from 67 percent in 2012 to 70 percent this year, including an increase among both white (88 percent to 90 percent) and black athletes (59 percent to 65 percent). Six schools in the tournament fell below the new standard of 930 in terms of Academic Progress Rate, a four-year measure of a school’s graduation rate.

Only three schools in the NCAA tournament, Lapchick said, had a 100 percent graduation rate for both their men’s and women’s basketball teams: Duke, Notre Dame and Villanova. Only teams in the 2013 NCAA tournament were evaluated.

McMillen said he wasn’t suggesting an immediate restructuring of contracts. Rather, such a process, in his mind, could take some time, likely requiring some schools to begin the process before others. Of the roughly 50 contracts McMillen reviewed, only Connecticut had a provision that tied athletic bonuses to minimum academic performance.

“I thought that was pretty innovative,” McMillen said, adding that Maryland was exploring a similar system. “We’re looking at that system at Maryland. So I think this is going to take some time. But I think it should apply to head coaches and assistant coaches. This is not something you do tomorrow with existing contracts.

“I wouldn’t take an existing contract and say all of a sudden we’ll pay you $5,000 of academic bonuses. I think you have to rectify the balance over time. And this is a goal, and I think it’s for governing board to watch and observe this, so you look at five years, 10 years from now and we’ve really established some balance in the system.”