The NCAA’s inability to punish the University of North Carolina for widespread academic fraud among its athletes didn’t move the association to adopt recommended reforms, a report from The News & Observer shows.
Documents obtained by the N&O through a public records request show a proposal from University of Oregon President Michael Schill to identify egregious academic fraud was declined, despite the recommendations of two special NCAA committees following the UNC scandal.
Schill’s proposal called for a “panel of university presidents who are not serving on NCAA committees to identify egregious academic fraud,” according to the N&O report, which would have halted the practice of letting NCAA officials determine what constitutes academic fraud in these cases.
The report goes onto speculate that the reforms may have failed because it would lead to more schools being identified for potential violations.
The abandonment of a proposal that puts the decision in the hands of academics shows member schools are worried about more fraud being uncovered on their campuses, says a college athletics expert.
Ellen Staurowsky, a Drexel University sport management professor, said the proposal appeared to be an effective way to address universities’ stated fears. Staurowsky co-authored the book “College Athletes for Hire: The Evolution and Legacy of the NCAA Amateur Myth.”
“The fact that the association is so resistive to this kind of scrutiny suggests that there is so much (academic fraud) out there than they want to have revealed,” she said.
Schill seemed to believe that he had the backing of several Pac 12 schools and wrote to the NCAA’s Presidential Forum explaining the numerous benefits such reform would provide, per the public records request.
“Enact an ‘egregious violation’ provision like this, but provide that allegations would be adjudged by a panel of presidents from NCAA schools who are not part of a continuing NCAA body,” Schill wrote in an email on April 16 to NCAA staff and UNC-Greensboro Chancellor Frank Gilliam, who leads the NCAA’s Presidential Forum.
“Since instances are likely to be very rare it should be easy to recruit these presidents on a one-time only basis,” Schill continued. “Only presidents would judge these cases; not athletic directors or others.”
The N&O found the proposal was supported by the NCAA Division I Academic Council yet when the recommendations were passed along to the presidential forum’s steering committee for feedback, the responses were hidden from the public record.
Of the 32 NCAA Division I basketball conferences, 28 responded on forms that were immediately collected by NCAA officials and have since been made confidential. Only a verbal report was given back to the steering committee.
“Comments trended toward concern that such a provision would be unnecessary and that recent changes in the infractions process will capture systemic academic malfeasance. As such, the (forum’s) Steering Committee decided not to submit the concept at this time,” the steering committee’s report said, per the N&O.
The steering committee also noted that the “bylaw could be revisited in the future if academic misconduct persists.”
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