The NCAA is getting some heat for not extending its rules and authority to include penalties for academic fraud.
There is a good reason for this. Schools like North Carolina funneled athletes into classes that existed on paper only. Others have tutors complete assignments for athletes who excel on the court or field but struggle in the classroom.
If the NCAA is going to trumpet a “free education” as adequate compensation for the billions of dollars football and men’s college basketball funnels to universities in the form of media deals, shoe company contracts, and ticket sales, an education should be a legitimate benefit to the student. Right?
That makes sense.
But let’s be honest about the NCAA – it’s much better at running championships and determining eligibility of athletes than enforcing rules. Anyone with a functioning brain who read the testimony or perused the evidence in the corruption trials of James Gatto, Merl Code, and Christian Dawkins knows many athletes receive impermissible benefits. Few of the dirty programs have been (or will be) punished.
How can anyone expect the association that cannot be trusted to guarantee athletic equanimity among it members to expand its oversight role to include academic fraud?
It doesn’t make sense, but there are other answers:
- Athletes and their families to reject the recruiting overtures of schools that exploit athletes without providing a genuine education.
- Schools with excellent academic programs unavailable to athletes should be rejected.
- Schools with a track record of tutors completing work need to be eliminated as suitors.
- Schools without a heritage of producing alums with meaningful degrees don’t deserve to have their calls and texts answered.
Let the buyer – or recruit – beware.
For basketball players more focused upon a pro career than a university’s academic rigors, there is the G League. With football, there is no minor league so the options for athletes hoping to pursue a career in the NFL are limited, but there is nothing wrong with getting the best education you can while in college.
This conversation is not exclusive of the debate about SB 206 or other legislation that would prevent the NCAA from penalizing players who receive cash or considerations for endorsements or licensing of image. Whether an athlete is on the dean’s list or has a tutor complete his work, he should be able to control and benefit from the monetization of his image.
But let’s understand what the NCAA does well and more importantly what it does not. Imposing penalties upon schools is not in its wheelhouse, so asking it to embrace more of what it already fails at is irresponsible.
It’s not the NCAA’s job to ensure schools implant an education in its athletes’ brains. That responsibility belongs to the athletes themselves.