North Carolina Shows That The NCAA Is Still A Joke
It has been a rough couple of weeks for the National Collegiate Athletic Association. First, a number or coaches are facing corruption charges after an FBI investigation found that they received bribes and other money which was ultimately funneled to players. Then, after a five year inquiry, the NCAA declined to punish the University of North Carolina basketball program after the college’s own study concluded that UNC athletes were taking fraudulent classes in order to maintain eligibility.
The NCAA is an organization that somehow manages to waiver between being feckless and authoritarian. It issues strong takes on text messaging, as if it were a soccer mom pouring over the family cell phone bill. It micromanages student athletes to such a degree that schools report incredibly minor violations, ranging from football players eating too much pasta to kids playing games of laser tag.
When it wants to flex its muscles, the NCAA vacates wins because a coach did not tattle on players who were getting free tattoos. It will punish 18-year-old USC recruits, who had no ties to the scandal, for a prior coach failing to check up on the living situations of his player’s family — even though the coach and player they are “punishing” have long since bolted for the NFL and millions of dollars. It’d be like if on every episode of Law and Order, after the jury returned a guilty verdict, the criminals were handed a Super Bowl trophy while the police threw the guest characters from the next week’s episode in jail.
Yet despite the NCAA’s willingness to legislate things as minor as putting icing on a cookie, it decided against punishing North Carolina for pushing its athletes towards “no work” fraud classes. The NCAA concluded that since technically any UNC student could enroll in the sham classes, that made the issue of the fake grades an academic matter — which is outside the NCAA’s purview. It didn’t matter than nearly 40% of the students in the bogus African and Afro-American Studies department were football and basketball players, or that the professors in the department were reportedly unaware that they were even supposedly teaching many of the classes. Nor did it matter that many of these classes had no course materials or assignments.
The only thing that mattered to the NCAA was that it was technically possible for a non-athlete at North Carolina to figure out how to enter through the enchanted wardrobe into this land of academic Narnia, where they too could receive superior grades for doing no work. This idiotic logic ignores the fact that there may be other non-athlete students, who have similar incentives to athletes, who might be willing to waste their tuition dollars by taking Swahili classes where no professor actually teaches anyone Swahili.
The least the NCAA could’ve done was given UNC it’s lame punishment of “vacating wins” — like they are changing the past in Back to the Future (only instead of the pictures fading away, everyone clearly remembers that USC beat Oklahoma and Jim Boheim won 1,000 games).
While some people (mostly those wearing Carolina blue) may defend the NCAA’s inaction, a decision to overstep its original jurisdiction is not without precedent. The NCAA initially issued harsh sanctions against Penn State for failing to monitor an assistant coach’s pedophilia ring, which is about as far removed from overseeing competitive fairness among amateur athletes as you can get.
If the NCAA can punish teenage kids for the actions of Jerry Sandusky, it can without a doubt punish UNC for maintaining a fake department where the curriculum made Trump University look like a linear algebra class. By letting them off with no punishment, it is pretty clear that the NCAA exists solely as an organization to make certain people rich off of the labor of children, while occasionally taking a moral stance against a dining hall dishing out too much pasta.