Both of these things are true:
- The NCAA agrees with the University of North Carolina, former UNC athletes, and multiple third-party investigations that hundreds of UNC athletes took sham courses as part of an academic fraud incident (UNC later decided that fraud admission was a “typo”).
- The NCAA chose not to sanction UNC for this. The reason: Non-athlete students took these courses as well.
The NCAA’s job isn’t to run universities. It’s tasked itself with preserving amateurism and organizing tournaments.
Two more things that are true, based on the NCAA’s self-assigned role in college sports:
- If the University of North Carolina wants to offer an automatic A to anyone in the student body for a class that involves no meetings, little faculty oversight, and grading by the secretary, that’s not the NCAA’s jurisdiction. It is the jurisdiction of accreditation agencies, though, and UNC was placed on probation.
- If such a class were only offered to athletes, it would be the NCAA’s jurisdiction.
This passage in the NCAA report shows you how low UNC was willing to go in its defense strategy. A secretary grading papers? Not a big deal. pic.twitter.com/AXcyxy7dv9— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) October 13, 2017
It’s kind of like how actual crimes are best left to law-enforcement professionals, rather than the NCAA mall cops.
We can get angry about UNC’s affront to institutional academia, but this is not an academia site. This is a sports site.
And as a college sports fan, when I heard the NCAA’s ruling, my mind went to one place.
Every school walking through this newly discovered NCAA loophole pic.twitter.com/sqpe9Gt2S6— Frogs O' War (@FrogsOWar) October 13, 2017
What’s stopping a school from setting up a similar “paper course” and making sure it’s open to all students, then sending athletes through it?
UNC did it for 18 years, winning national titles in multiple sports that sent athletes through the class, and is now off accreditation probation. Throughout this seven-year NCAA ordeal, the only actual dings it suffered were to its football program, and those were for dealings with agents and ineligible players taking the field, not for this course. The Heels took a recruiting dip, due to NCAA uncertainty, but that’s over now — and they’re the reigning March Madness champs anyway.
Shorter version: Whatever small advantage UNC derived from having a few more easy As on the team transcript each year, it was totally worth it.
The only things the NCAA acted against were football players getting too much help from tutors and former staffers not cooperating, so just avoid those parts. Oh, and ask your players not to tweet rap lyrics that imply they’re getting discounted bottles at Miami nightclubs (yes, that’s literally how UNC’s whole thing started).
Obviously, you’d be too concerned with academic purity to modify UNC’s course and use it at your own school, but it’d at least cross your mind, right?
The NCAA perpetually paints the NCAA into a corner.
Just as the NCAA’s star Ole Miss witness, a Mississippi State player, found himself trapped between bad options (either exposing himself to litigation or endangering his own eligibility), the NCAA’s attempts to cram the sprawling, contradictory, ancient mess that is college athletics into a legal framework constantly proves even more difficult than imagined.