The University of North Carolina completed their investigation regarding student-athletes who were pushed to sham classes over an 18-year period involving over 3,100 students. The report, released Wednesday, says academic advisers in North Carolina's athletic department colluded with a manager in the African and Afro-American Studies department for student-athletes to take classes to boost their GPAs and keep them eligible in their respective sports.
The classes, in place from 1993 to 2011 as reported by espn.com allowed a student to write a paper of at least 10 pages rather than attend lectures or meet with professors. Academic advisor Deborah Crowder, who was not a professor, graded the papers. They typically earned an A or B-plus grade.
According to the report, one former head football coach, John Bunting, admitted to knowing of the paper classes and his successor, Butch Davis, also admitted some knowledge. Current men's basketball coach Roy Williams is steadfast that he did not know.
This all came to light when former UNC basketball star Rashad McCants revealed to told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" in June that tutors wrote his term papers, he rarely went to class for about half his time at UNC, and he remained able to play largely because he took bogus classes designed to keep athletes academically eligible. McCants made the dean’s list in the spring of 2005. The same year he was part of a National Championship team at UNC.
I’m an avid sports fan, especially college sports. My late father was a high school teacher and coach, university administrator and athletic director. My family on both sides is full of current and former educators and coaches. Many friends/classmates participated in college sports, graduated, and have gone on to have careers in a variety of fields and own their own businesses. The revelations from the UNC investigation stimulated many thoughts on a personal level.
There is enough blame to go around with the revelations at UNC. What is not discussed enough is why academic counselors and student-athletes would go the route that UNC did to help students stay eligible. Unfortunately many student-athletes education K-12 did not prepare them adequately for higher education at an institution such as University of North Carolina.
UNC academic adviser Mary Willingham, who questioned the literacy level of Tar Heels athletes and said UNC, had committed academic misconduct before leaving the job in 2010. Universities are not held accountable enough for pushing student-athletes toward majors that have a lighter workload and don’t develop skills that will be marketable when they pursue employment after graduation. Some universities Liberal Arts degrees are a fancy way to say General Studies.
This story made me reflect on a conversation my late father had with me in the car over 16 years ago when he was the athletic director at his alma mater Grambling State University. To paraphrase, he admitted that the NCAA has antiquated rules and are making millions of dollars from basketball and football. A student-athlete cannot change the rules while they are in school, what they can do is maximize the platform that it gives them.
Student-athletes are first in line to register for classes and schedules. Have unlimited access to academic tutoring and support. Travel and meet people from all walks of life. Instead of focusing on what the university or NCAA is getting out of the deal, focus on what you can control and maximize that opportunity and leave school debt free and receive a quality education.
I am a proponent of student-athletes getting compensation, especially when it pertains to their likeness. That is another issue. The education they receive is independent of any additional money. Another point my father made was that in many instances parents get caught up in the hype. They do not push their child to focus on education or they were not fortunate enough to receive a quality education during their formative years. In both instances it creates a quandary with attempting to keep the student-athletes eligible.
I’ve stated many times before that sports are a microcosm of society. In August 2012 The Washington Post op-ed from Darryl Robinson, who was a freshman at Georgetown University and not an athlete addressed the difficult transition from high school to college academically. He attended some of Washington, DC’s best schools and still was unprepared for academic rigors of Georgetown.
Robinson worked everyday to improve. He went to tutoring twice a week, and routinely attended his professors’ office hours. He was able to express any frustrations and the professors could understand that he valued his education.
Darryl Robinson is like many student-athletes that step onto a college campus and face challenges adapting to the academic challenges whether their high schools prepared them or not. Some, like Robinson push through the initial struggles to have academic success; others take short cuts as over 3,100 student-athletes did at UNC.
There is enough blame to go around. How about education reform so every high school student is not in the position Darryl Robinson was in when he enrolled at Georgetown. Parents need to be held accountable for getting caught in the hype machine of thinking their child will not need an education and will make millions of dollars as a professional athlete.
Academic counselors and advisors not addressing the root of the problem and just want to keep a player eligible so they will push them toward courses and majors that will not help them later in life. Finally, the student-athletes, even though they are young (18-23) there is some accountability on their part. They agreed to choose this route, but the reason it gets to that point is because adults failed them on many levels before they stepped on a college campus.
UNC will be made the poster child for this issue, they are not alone. My hope is that it will begin a conversation and change for all parties involved in a student-athletes life.