One things for certain. The NCAA isnt exactly CSI.
One wonders how the NCAA, governing body of college athletics, would approach the cracking of a cookie jar. The kid is discovered coming out of the kitchen with Oreos in one hand, oatmeal cookies in the other and sugar dust on his lips, chin and shirt. The cookie jar is shattered on the kitchen floor.
I didnt do it and I dont know anything about it, he says.
Oh, says the NCAA, then go on your way.
No, the alleged academic fraud now under investigation at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill isnt that simple, perhaps. But when a couple of football players suspicious transcripts show kindly grades in one department from one professor (African and Afro-American Studies and Julius Nyangoro) and decidedly poor marks in other courses, and when there have been no-show courses in that department loaded with football players, including a summer school course in which no instruction was offered if those arent problems for college sports governing body, then its standards are too low.
Guess what? Its standards are too low.
The bottom line
In a decision announced by UNC-Chapel Hill that has national commentators crying and laughing, the NCAA decided there will be no sanctions for the university related to the alleged academic fraud in African and Afro-Americans Studies and its connection to athletes. Considering the information thats come to light, from courses with no instruction to a curious transcript revealed to be that of former star Julius Peppers, and the fact that there now are three investigations about the matter, this is astonishing.
All this is not to say that UNC-Chapel Hill absolutely needs to be punished some more (in addition to sanctions for impermissible benefits to players and a failure to monitor the program). Indeed, the NCAA appears to have been inconsistent in its oversight of many others who have broken the academic rules.
The organization has punished some schools with academic-related problems and ignored others, The N&O reported. The goal should be to raise standards and then enforce them uniformly.
But lets not forget that the NCAA has an interest in protecting the hugely profitable status quo for universities in big-time athletics. Hundreds of millions of dollars worth.
In the case of UNC-Chapel Hills problems and the alleged fraud, the organization seems to be looking for reasons to do nothing. One NCAA official told The N&O in an interview that the organization doesnt get involved in cases where academic fraud was not intended to specifically help athletes. Apparently, if there are other, non-athlete students, for example, in an independent study class where there is no instruction, then the organization says that cant be interpreted as designed to benefit athletes.
At UNC, that was the case, even thought athletes were a majority of those enrolled in aberrant classes.
As the protector of a national big-money enterprise, albeit one with a recent history (Southern California, Ohio State) of serious problems, the NCAA isnt going to rock the money-laden boat. But here goes anyway.
The organization needs to take a look at the effectiveness of its rules and ask itself whether the scope of those rules needs to be broadened. That would mean that the interaction of athletics and academics would indeed come under the microscope not just of the academic overseers (who should have been paying closer attention to the situation on their campus in Chapel Hill) but also under the NCAA, which has the right to impose penalties.
For these periodic scandals, though rare, are symptomatic of the blinding of college administrators by the bright lights and big revenues of college athletics/entertainment spectacles. The lights may not need to be cut off, but they definitely need to be dimmed.