The governing board of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) Division I conferences has chosen not to adopt rules that would have allowed it to punish institutions that engage in egregious academic fraud.
The recommended policy change came about after widespread criticism of the NCAA for declining to penalize the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for creating fake classes that largely benefited athletes for almost two decades.
The NCAA said it could not definitively prove the “shadow” courses in the department of African and Afro-American studies had been set up solely to boost the grade point averages of athletes to keep them eligible to play. They noted that non-athletes also took the classes.
Under current NCAA rules, an institution is allowed to decide if academic fraud occurred on their campuses. When the association investigated UNC, university administrators insisted the classes were legitimate, ultimately allowing UNC to escape punishment.
Although university officials did reverse the course decision in 2014 and admitted that academic misconduct did occur. This was in part due to an investigative report from the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, which outlined how the fake classes lasted from 1993 to 2011 with 3,100 students having been enrolled with no instructor and grades being assigned by a secretary on campus.
The NCAA was called out after UNC dodged sanctions that should have resulted from the fake class but did not because they took advantage of the loophole in the rules. In turn, multiple groups demanded NCAA representatives revise their policies on academic fraud, including a panel led by former U.S. secretary of state and Stanford University provost Condoleezza Rice.
The Board of Directors did support mild changes in academic reform policies at its meeting last month, including “emphasizing a school’s role in determining violations of its own policies regarding academic honesty and integrity in the process of applying NCAA rules,” according to an NCAA statement.