The Transylvania Times -

Goodbye To Student-Athletes


October 19, 2017

The recent decision by the NCAA not to levy any sanctions on the University of North Carolina for providing bogus academic classes so that football and basketball players could remain eligible should put to rest the myth of the student-athlete in Division I football and basketball.

In 2010 some football players for UNC received money illegally. The investigation into those events led to a more comprehensive investigation of athletics at UNC, including the creation of “paper classes.” These classes did not require attendance, offered no instruction and required students to write just one paper to receive credit for the class. One star athlete at the university received a “B” for a paper not even one page in length that could have been written by a fourth grader. In addition, the person who set up these classes and graded the papers, Debby Crowder, had been told by academic advisors the specific grades some athletes needed to maintain their eligibility.

These classes and other actions, such as tutors writing papers for athletes, were established to keep athletes eligible.

Why did the NCAA not punish UNC with sanctions last week? The answer centers around a few points: the classes may have been easy but they were not “fraudulent;” other students had access to these classes; and the issue was really an academic matter over which the NCAA has no control.

The answers are disingenuous. There are “easy” classes in college just as there are “easy” departments and “easy” majors. But even in the “easy” classes students have to attend class, receive instruction and do more work than a one-page paper the entire semester. These “paper classes” were just as fraudulent as some for-profit colleges that take students money but provide them with no real education or skills.

The claim that the classes were open to all students is simply misdirection. The “paper classes” were created to help athletes maintain their eligibility. Although athletes comprise just 4 percent of the student body at UNC, athletes comprised 47.4 percent of the students in these classes. Once these classes had been established, the university could not have denied other students from taking the classes if they had met the pre-requisites. In addition, once the scandal was made public, these classes were dissolved.

The last reason strikes at the heart of the matter. Even though these classes were established so that academically unfit athletes could maintain their eligibility, the NCAA said it was an academic matter not under their purview. That is a dubious claim since they recently ruled Braxton Beverly could not play basketball this year. Beverly signed to play at Ohio State and started taking a summer school class. But when the basketball coach was terminated, Beverly asked for and was released from his commitment to Ohio State. He transferred to N.C. State. But last week the NCAA said he could not play this year because he started those classes at Ohio State. Thus, the NCAA has ruled on an academic matter by punishing an athlete who also is attempting to be a student.

But if the NCAA, as it claimed in the case of UNC, has no authority regarding academic matters, then it has destroyed the concept of the student-athlete. Athletic scholarships are given as a trade off. The student-athlete is to provide his athletic skills to the university; in return, the university is to provide a college level education. That trade-off no longer exists. Now, the university can still require the athlete to perform, but it no longer has to provide a collegiate-level education. The NCAA has no grounds on which to enforce the university to live up to its educational half of the agreement.

Obviously, many of those who sign to play football or basketball at Division I schools do not care about academics because they see the university as a steppingstone to the NBA or the NFL. But only a tiny number of players actually become professionals. According to the NCAA, only 1.5 percent of college football players play in the NFL and only 1.1 percent of college basketball players play in the NBA. For the vast majority of college athletes, once their college careers end, their playing careers end.

Because the student-athlete covenant has been broken, these athletes have little or nothing to fall back on once their college careers are over. This is the antithesis of college. College is supposed to prepare one for a career or develop the individual so that he can pursue numerous careers. Since this decision has nullified the academic aspect of the athletic scholarship, however, universities can, in effect, say goodbye to the student-athlete.


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