NCAA fails miserably, turns a blind eye to UNC's academic misdeeds

Publish date:

In a class called How To Embarrass Your School Without Getting In Trouble With the NCAA, I give the North Carolina Tar Heels an A-plus. And they don't even have to write a paper.

The NCAA looked at the UNC scandal and announced that, as in one of the fake UNC classes, there was nothing to see here. No NCAA rules were violated. Of course, Penn State didn't violate any NCAA rules either, but that is what we call a "technicality," Sorry you have to spend the next decade in the wilderness, Penn State. Bring a blanket and a Thermos.

I don't know how the NCAA can justify this. I don't understand why Penn State has to spend four years in the NCAA's intensive-care-unit for the abhorrent actions of a few former employees, while North Carolina gets a pass for its rampant academic fraud.

I don't know what the NCAA can say to Penn State now. But I really don't know what the NCAA says to Connecticut.

You remember Connecticut, don't you? The Huskies are ineligible for the 2013 NCAA tournament because poor academic scores.

UConn athletic director Warde Manuel said he was not intimately familiar with the details of the UNC scandal, but that he found it "odd" the NCAA would punish Connecticut severely and not punish North Carolina at all. Manuel called it a "double standard."

The NCAA just made it clear: The Huskies should have cheated. UConn should have given all its players a phony A. Then the NCAA would say, "No violations here!" Instead, UConn was honest about its academic failures, and the NCAA banned the Huskies. Tell me again about those "life lessons" the NCAA wants to teach.

Speaking of lessons: Let's see how you do on this fun test of what matters to the NCAA.

QUESTION 1: Player A's father pays Player B $3,000 to take a final exam for him. Who violated NCAA rules?

A. Players A and B, for blatant academic fraud.

B. Nobody.

C. Player B, for ruining his amateur status.

The answer is ...

D. It depends on the strength of NCAA president Mark Emmert's coffee when it happens.

But clearly, the NCAA would be more worried about a player getting a little extra money than, you know, violating the central mission of a university.

QUESTION 2: Nah, we'll stop at one question. Take a break. We'll see you next semester.

The North Carolina scandal is a mess of forged signatures and unearned grades. Numerous courses in the department of African and Afro-American Studies were apparently a sham, designed to give athletes credits they didn't earn. But the NCAA doesn't care, because the NCAA cares about money and competition, in that order.

How ridiculous is this? Well, imagine you were a parent. You send your kid to school on an athletic scholarship. Would you be angrier if he took a few hundred bucks from a fan, or if the university gave him phony grades so he could stay eligible? I understand college kids wanting some extra money. I think most people do. But I would be livid if the university gave my kid a grade he didn't earn.

For most of us, the college life is pretty simple. You enroll. You drink enormous amounts of awful beer. You try to impress members of the opposite sex. You eat ramen noodles and pizza, stay up until dawn and take impromptu road trips to random towns just so you can drink the same awful beer there.

But for the most part, the university doesn't care about any of it. Oh, sure, if you get arrested or violate somebody's civil rights, the school mascot may raise an eyebrow. But the school exists to educate you. If you do your work well, you get good grades. If you don't, you get lousy grades or fail out.

The NCAA cares more about the ramen noodles. The NCAA figures if you are poor, you are a real college student. If you take some extra money and earn a 4.0, you have done something wrong. If you don't take extra money and get phony grades, that is fine. The University of North Carolina is a wonderful institution that made a terrible mistake. But in the twisted world of the NCAA, it was the right mistake. On with the games!