A colleague of mine once asked me a rhetorical question. “What kind of magic does it take for college athletes, especially those from very disadvantaged educational backgrounds, to remain eligible when they must spend most of their waking hours training for or playing sports?”
“The magic,” he suggested, “is academic fraud.”
In his view, which I share, responsibility rests with institutional leaders whose jobs depend on currying favor with powerful alumni and other constituencies whose priority is winning national championships, not academic excellence.
Cheating scandals such as the one at the University of North Carolina are not limited to a few rogue universities. On the contrary, some violations of academic integrity are to be expected in any school that requires athletes to give so much time and attention to sports that an army of tutors and academic support personal is needed to keep them eligible. Most academic counselors are dedicated professionals, but the line between tutoring and doing athletes work for them can get a little fuzzy.
Helping athletes stay eligible becomes academic fraud when athletes’ work is done for them or when they are pushed into classes with little or no academic content.
The evidence is overwhelming that big-time college football players have little time to make college education a priority. The National Labor Relations Board in Illinois recently issued a detailed report on football at Northwestern University stating that football players “are under strict and exacting control by their coaches throughout the entire year.” Pre-season training begins six weeks before the start of the fall semester. During this period, coaches provide “hour by hour” schedules of football related activities which last from 5:30 in the morning to 10:30 at night for an average of about 50 or 60 hours per week.
The NLRB report estimated 40 to 50 hours per week during the season devoted to games, weight training, mandatory meetings, practice, and travel. Players often go to the coaches’ offices at 8 p.m. to watch game film for a couple of hours.
In a survey of college football players undertaken several years ago, the NCAA found that football players devote about 40 hours a week on football- related activities in preparation for 12 regular season games, thus reinforcing the findings at Northwestern.
Athletes recently challenged the NCAA in a number of antitrust cases. Without those challenges, the NCAA would have made no effort to introduce significant educational reforms. The athletes deserve the stipends and scholarship enhancements ordered by the judge in the antitrust case brought by Ed O’Bannon.
However, as a college professor, I am more concerned that big-time college athletes receive the educational opportunity they were promised than the compensation that comes with further professionalizing college sport. Denying athletes those educational opportunities constitutes a breach of contract.
In order to defend athletes rights to an education, the Drake Group, an organization whose mission is to defend academic integrity in college sports, has proposed educational reforms which should be embraced by every accredited institution of higher education and be institutionalized in NCAA rules and regulations where appropriate.
These reforms include:
Allow freshman eligibility for only those athletes whose high school grade point average or standardized test scores are within one standard deviation from the mean academic profile of their entering class, thus giving special admits time to adjust to a more competitive academic environment than they may be use to.
Athletes must maintain a cumulative GPR of 2.0 in order to be eligible for sports, thus sending a clear message that education gets top priority. Athletes who fall below 2.0 should be given two semesters to raise their GPA to that level or lose their athletic scholarship.
Provide extensive academic remediation for athletes who are ineligible to play as freshmen and limit their practice time to 10 hours a week. Remediation should begin in the summer before these athletes enter college.
Require that all academic and counseling support services for college athletes be under the direct supervision of and budgetary control of the institution’s academic authority, administered externally to the athletic department, and be consistent with counseling and support services for all students.
Require institutions to provide “whistle blower protections” for those who disclose unethical conduct or institutional rules violations related to the conduct of athletics programs.
Require all NCAA institutions to award multiyear scholarships that extend to graduation and that cannot be cancelled for injury or contributions to a team’s success. Cancelation should be permitted only for voluntary withdrawal or serious violations of team rules.
Require the faculty senate (or other highest faculty governance authority) to closely examine athletic department and coaches’ rules (other than those promulgated by the NCAA) to ensure they are compatible with educational best practices. Faculty should have the final say on this.
The NCAA’s 20 hour a week (4 hours a day) rule should be strictly enforced and the scholarships of players who skip supposedly “voluntary” workouts during the year to devote their time to non-athletically related activities should be protected.
Institutions should work with faculty senates to ensure that athletic contests are scheduled to minimize conflict with class attendance, and no athlete should be prohibited from taking a class that may occasionally conflict with a practice, or team meeting.
Institutions should have a tenured faculty-only Committee on Academic Oversight elected by the faculty senate to report annually to the senate on the academic progress of college athletes and, when possible, to compare such data to non-athletes. This report would list independent studies taken, grades received, and professors teaching. It would also include a list of athletes’ advisors, courses taken, faculty who taught those courses and grades received. Care would be taken to adhere to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
This is only a partial list of reforms that should be instituted. In the coming years, Congress should take a very close look at the way college sports in American higher education is governed. Perhaps the NCAA should be totally replaced by a federally chartered corporation that is willing to institute meaningful reforms that go well beyond the proposals mentioned above. America’s colleges and universities are a national treasure. Should college sport be governed by an organization that appears to have put education on the sidelines?
Allen Sack, a professor in the college of business at the University of New Haven, played on the University of Notre Dame’s 1966 national championship football team. He is past president of the Drake Group
Margaret Bartow, executive vice president and provost at Lakeland Community College, in Ohio, has been named provost of Delaware County Community College, in Pennsylvania. (Note: This item has been corrected from an earlier version.)
Many students and legislators are angry that Kean University paid $219,000 for a custom-built conference room table, NJ.com reported. The university did not seek bids on the project and used a Chinese company as part of an effort to build ties to China. Dawood Farahi, Kean's president, told NorthJersey.com it was "small-minded" to make inquiries about the cost of the table.
UPDATE: A spokeswoman for Kean, via email to Inside Higher Ed, said the table should be viewed as a "conferencing center" because it includes electronic equipment, storage for the equipment and lighting, and is more than the conference table itself. The photo below is of the table.
The Lion, one of Columbia University's student publications, recently tracked down the university's tax forms, which show that President Lee Bollinger received a $700,000 boost in total compensation, bringing total compensation to just over $3 million for the most recent year available. Some at Columbia, apparently not amused but with a sense of irony, have come up with an attention-getting way to draw attention to Bollinger's lucrative compensation.
They have decided to focus not on the raise, but on the apparent gap between Bollinger and Robert Zimmer, president of the University of Chicago and possibly the president with the top package. An anonymous group called Prezbos Army is crowdsourcing a campaign to raise the $350,000 that could put Bollinger on top. The campaign is called Fair Salary for Prezbo. So far, there has been only one donation, for $5.
Among the new provisions in the retiring Democrat's final proposal to rewrite the Higher Education Act are a student unit record system and incentives for colleges to graduate more Pell Grant recipients.
Submitted by Jake New on November 20, 2014 - 3:00am
A math instructor at Weber State University completed coursework for five football players, including a final exam, according to a National Collegiate Athletic Association infractions decision announced Wednesday. The football players gave the instructor their usernames and passwords during the spring 2013 semester, and she logged in to their online math courses to complete tests, quizzes, and exams. As the semester came to an end, an adjunct instructor for one of the math classes noticed that a player had completed six quizzes and a final exam -- all in one hour. The adjunct's concern led to a full review of the developmental math program.
Weber State charged the five students with academic dishonesty and gave them failing grades. The university also alerted the NCAA about the misconduct, and during the investigation, other players said they received help Though NCAA investigators alleged that Weber State had failed to monitor the academic coursework of athletes, the Division I Committee on Infractions determined that the university's compliance system had detected the violations and quickly taken action. "We take full responsibility for the incident," Charles Wight, Weber State's president, said in a statement. "While we regret that it occurred, it is reassuring to know the systems we have in place quickly detected these unethical activities. We must remain vigilant going forward."
The university received several penalties, including three years of probation, a fine of $5,000 plus 2 percent of the football program's operating budget, and a reduction of 9 football equivalency scholarships. The instructor received a five-year show-cause order, and if the instructor ever works for another member institution and has responsibilities in its athletic department, the institution must appear before a committee panel. "The violations were detected in a reasonable time," Rodney Uphoff, chief committee on infractions hearing officer, said during a press call Wednesday. "The school was credited with promptly detecting and coming forward with the information as required by the membership."