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Barkley promises to be candid in NCAA gig

Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley

Kenny Smith and Charles Barkley Credit: Getty Images

Charles Barkley has been lobbing verbal grenades for more than a decade as an NBA studio analyst for TNT, making him one of the most colorful, controversial figures in sports television.

Now it's the college game's turn.

Appearing at a CBS / Turner breakfast to discuss the new-look NCAA Tournament Tuesday, Barkley promised to cover more than just brackets and buzzer-beaters next week.

"I'm going to talk about the games, but when I met with the NCAA, I said, 'At some point, we are going to have to talk about graduation rates on these damn games,' " he said. "We can't go three weeks just talking about basketball and everybody gets paid and we have a bunch of dummies running around out there.''

Barkley held court for more than 30 minutes, offering quotable variations on his theme:

That colleges do a disservice to athletes by not taking their education more seriously, and that one-year-and-done players weaken both the NCAA and NBA.

"One of the reasons I took this job was there are some things I want to say,'' Barkley said. "I don't have to do this job, OK? We just gave these damn people $11 billion. They're not paying the players. I'm not going to go on a rant about where the money goes, but they have an obligation to graduate these players.''

Barkley said he is especially concerned about the effects on black students with unrealistic expectations of pro success.

"Not to make it racial, but it has a really negative effect on the black community, because the majority of these players are black,'' he said. "They're not going to make it in the NBA. They're not getting educated. Then we expect them to raise their families uneducated.''

Barkley said having star collegians leave before they are physically mature also hurts the NBA, where bad teams should benefit more than they do from infusions of young talent.

One result, he said, is too many weak teams. "When you look at the NBA right now,'' he said, "it's not a very good product.''

Speaking around a hotel breakfast table about such concerns is one thing. Doing it during an NCAA telecast is quite another. But Barkley said he doesn't care.

"My bosses are here to make money, but I can't just be in it for the money,'' he said. "That's not cool . . . I love working for Turner, but this thing can't just be about the money.''

So, as usual, the floor is yours, Sir Charles:

"The problem is we're all pigs. College is just trying to get theirs. The NBA is trying to get theirs. The agents are trying to get theirs. Everybody is just concerned about their thing.

"We have to reach a happy medium. We need to help college basketball. They need to help us. But right now, everybody is just being a pig.''

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