The Ugly Paradox of the NCAA

The NCAA mission statement in absolute terms expresses the importance of education in collegiate athletes. This was proven to be a farce. In a decision that can only be surprised as shocking, yet expected, the University of North Carolina has escaped any form of punishment from the NCAA for its decades of academic fraud. Perhaps the greatest tragedy is that the NCAA, per its official statement, did not seem to even consider this case of expansive academic fraud worthy of its jurisdiction. They so heavily promote the importance of academics, but just implicitly declared the exact opposite.


This is the same organization that outlines academics as a paramount aspect of determining the eligibility of student-athletes. GPA requirements for collegiate student-athletes vary by grade, from 1.8 for rising sophomores (academically, not eligibility-wise) to 2.0 for rising seniors and beyond. Poor academic performance results in a poor APR score. The Academic Progress Rating, or APR, is a formula based on academic performance of students receiving athletic financial aid. The APR serves as one of the NCAA’s chief requirements for evaluating schools and teams. Low scores result in sanctions and punishments that can include scholarship reductions and postseason bans.


Scores of teams in a multitude of sports have been punished by the NCAA for poor APR scores. Therefore, the NCAA has long since proved its jurisdiction to rule on issues that involve the academics of student-athletes. Over 150 student-athletes across three sports, football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball had grades from the classes in question improve their GPAs above the required thresholds to maintain academic eligibility and avoid a negative impact on the team’s APR rating.


Based on the application for the APR, and the widely-accepted truth that these classes were nothing short of fraudulent, all of these athletes, at a minimum, should have retroactively been declared ineligible. The results from those teams should have been declared vacated. The NCAA has proven what many fans of college sports have always feared to be true: it does not care for academics. It unevenly applies different sets of rules to different situations depending on a number of corrupt factors.


The NCAA’s conclusion that these classes did not provide an improper benefit to student-athletes is also laughable. Over the twenty-year period that this horrid system functioned, almost half of the UNC students in these fake classes were athletes. The three sports most implicated, football, men’s basketball, and women’s basketball, give out a combined 111 scholarships, or about .37 percent of the school’s total student enrollment. Advisors clearly steered athletes towards these classes with the intention on giving them an easy grade to preserve eligibility without any effort.


The NCAA has failed not just its fans, but its own student-athletes. This cheapens the hard academic work done by thousands of students at hundreds of universities. It sends the message that cheating the system through purported loopholes is better than following the rules and, for better or worse, aiding its student-athletes with academic growth. Indeed, its farce of a mission statement is just words. They don’t care about the academic side of the equation. At all. They only care about stacks of dollars. It is disgusting that an organization can spew such altruistic words while ignoring the very basis of their apparent message. Cash rules everything, and few schools bring in more money than UNC. It appears that the school was simply too big to punish. Instead, they’ve punished everyone else.

Nick Schwartz
Senior History major at UConn, and planning to attend graduate school in the future. One of the best moments of my life was winning a national title my freshman year. Husky basketball is a lifestyle! Avid New York sports fan, as well: Yankees, Giants, Knicks, Rangers! Also root for Manchester City and NYCFC.