There’s much to learn about the Missouri and NCAA joint investigation into possible academic fraud. Unknown, at the least to the public, is the number of athletes and sports involved and the time frame.
What is known is a former tutor claims to have taken or assisted on or completed exams or classes for athletes. Yolanda Kumar verified to The Star’s Tod Palmer what she posted on her Facebook account, her admission and apology, which concluded “I just can’t carry this burden anymore.”
Missouri and the NCAA have much to determine, but sadly, academic fraud is making a comeback.
An analysis by Inside Higher Ed found that the NCAA has punished Division I schools at least 15 times for academic fraud in the last decade. Earlier this year, the NCAA Division I Council adopted new rules that updated its academic integrity policies for the first time since 1983.
The revelation at Missouri wasn’t even the one instance of academic fraud news in major college sports this week. It occurred a few days after Notre Dame was placed on probation and ordered by the NCAA to vacate all victories for two seasons because a total of eight football players received improper academic assistance from a trainer.
At South Bend, a trainer completed course work for two football players and six others received some kind of improper assistance. The Fighting Irish is appealing the order to vacate victories, which includes 12 in 2012, the season Notre Dame played for the BCS National Championship.
The other widely publicized recent academic fraud case involves North Carolina. The scandal was revealed in 2010 when it was discovered that a tutor helped football players write papers. Coach Butch Davis lost his job and the Tar Heels were banned from a bowl game and docked 15 scholarships.
But that was only part of the story. An investigation revealed that over an 18-year period more than 3,100 students, about half of them athletes, took classes that were created and graded by a clerical employee who provided a high grade if the paper was turned in.
North Carolina appeared before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in October.
At last season’s Final Four, the Tar Heels met Syracuse, which had served punishment for academic fraud. Coach Jim Boeheim vacated more than 100 career victories and was suspended nine games during the conference season for violations that included a paper written for an athlete by a basketball facility receptionist.
About a decade ago, Kansas received three years of probation for a series of rules violations that included academic fraud. A graduate assistant football coach had given two prospective athletes answers to test questions on correspondence courses that they were taking on campus.
Keeping athletes eligible is at the heart of any academic scandal, and if cheating can be measured then academic fraud is more troubling than the age-old illegal extra benefit, the so-called $100 handshake or other booster-generated violations.
Academic dishonesty undermines the mission of a university. Academia, not athletics, is the foundation. A degree or academic progress based on bogus classes or other phoniness devalues the degrees and progress of students who don’t cheat.
Sadly, in many instances, the actions of a small number of people tarnish the accomplishments of many. That could be the case at Missouri, if the school gets bad news from the investigation.
The NCAA and schools tout their academic successes, and they should. Graduations rates for student-athletes have been rising. In 2004, the NCAA implemented Academic Progress Rate, a measurement that rewards schools for keeping athletes eligible and punishing those with postseason bans for those that don’t. The bottom line: athletes are getting better in the classroom.
But new measures and emphasis haven’t seemed to stop the troubling trend of academic fraud, especially lately.