Friday, June 5, 2015

NCAA lays out charges against UNC

The NCAA's notice of allegations against the University of North Carolina has been released, and although there are no real surprises, the expanse of the accusations are breathtaking. The primary allegation involves "lack of institutional control," a felony in the NCAA enforcement jurisprudence. For years, members of the academic counseling program and faculty members — faculty members! — arranged for student athletes and a few others to take classes that were shams. There were classes that never met, classes that required only the submission of a paper, which was graded by a non-faculty member with extraordinarily low standards. Papers that couldn't pass a decent high school teacher's scrutiny got A's from the generous grader, who lacked academic credentials.

This sham went on under the noses of academic administration. The African-American Studies Department and the College of Arts and Sciences utterly failed to provide adequate oversight. The AFAM department head was part of the conspiracy to give generous grades and not require class attendance in order to keep athletes academically eligible.

This is shameful, and many a Carolina alumnus feels deeply embarrassed. School pride has been grossly wounded. What punishment the NCAA might impose seems less important than the facts found in earlier investigations and the NCAA's notification. This embarrassment is rooted in the hell-bent determination to make UNC a football power, regardless of the cost. College acceptance standards have been reduced or vacated in order to sign athletes who spent more time in high school honing their athletic skills than in learning basic reading, writing, history and math. Other sports fell into the lure of easy grades, and the grotesque abandonment of academic standards emerged.

Some blame for this scandal reflects the poor preparation for college so many high school students receive. Students — and not just athletes — arrive on campus unprepared to do college-level work. Remedial education has become a major task of colleges. "Paper classes" just go one step beyond remedial education.

The university's response to the NCAA allegations is due within 90 days, but don't expect any significant mediating factors. At best, UNC can proclaim that the conspiracy has been disbanded, the major conspirators have been fired, and academics are back in control (or let's hope so).

This nightmare will not be over in another 90 days or six months. The NCAA is likely to impose future penalties in the form of scholarship restrictions, post-season bans, vacated victories or other long-term sentences. Even when the last post-season penalties are lifted, this embarrassment will not go away. We who have loved this university will continue to live with it for decades to come.

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