A crucial element is missing from all the recent debate about who truly is the number one team in college football, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., President and founder of the Rainbow PUSH, said today. Academic performance should be a factor in BCS rankings, he said.

Graduation success rates and academic progress rates – both of which are tracked by the NCAA – should be a factor, Rev. Jackson said. “On a scale of 10, at least give two points on that scale. The teams with the best academic performance should be considered for some kind of recognition.”

His comments came during the 12th Annual Rainbow PUSH Coalition Wall Street Project Economic Summit, which continues through Friday at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, 811 7th Ave.

The summit brings together corporate executives, political leaders, minority suppliers, and leaders from government, labor, the faith community and foreign nations. This year’s theme is “Fallout from the Bailout: A New Day in Washington.”

Among the sessions on the summit agenda is a panel discussion scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon Thursday entitled, “Sports in 2009 and How it Pertains to our Community Today.” Panelists will weigh in on a variety of topics such as sports careers on and off the field, disciplining of athletes, and the use of steroids and other performing enhancing drugs.

The moderator is Chris Broussard, senior writer, columnist and TV Analyst for ESPN, and speakers will be Michael Bantom, NBA senior VP of Player Development; David Cummings, Senior Deputy Editor, ESPN The Magazine; Emmett Gill, Asst. Professor, Rutgers University School of Social Work; Michael Haynes, VP of Player and Employee Development, NFL; Lamell McMorris, Perennial Strategy Group; and Josh Zeide, sports attorney (MLB/NBA players), exec. VP, Liberty National Golf Course.

During the summit, Rev. Jackson commended the values displayed by Myron Rolle, a star football player at Florida State University who announced this week that he will bypass an immediate chance at a multimillion-dollar contract in the National Football League to study at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar.

“The decision by Myron to delay a career in professional sports deserves much recognition,” Rev. Jackson said. “Myron is a young man who has his priorities in the right place, and someone who has succeeded because of strong family values and his ability to incorporate the principles from the football field into his student life.

Alluding to Rolle’s intention to become a doctor, Rev. Jackson added: “The average career in the NFL is less than five years, but being a medical physician or scientist is for a lifetime. And his family should be commended for instilling in him the kind of values he possesses.”

Rev. Jackson said Rainbow PUSH intends to honor Rolle and his family.

Rev. Jackson first called for sports reforms late last year after reading a report by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport that found that 19 of the teams that went to bowl games in the holiday season are graduating less than 50 per cent of black athletes.

The civil rights leader and former presidential candidate also has called for the NCAA to adopt a college version of the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires that minority candidates be considered when hiring coaches. He noted that there are only eight African-American head coaches out of 119 Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

The Rainbow PUSH Coalition is a progressive organization protecting, defending and expanding civil rights to improve economic and educational opportunity For more information about the conference, please visit the organization's website or call (212) 425-7874. To interview Rev. Jackson, please contact the media office at (773) 256-2714.

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