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Schools have forgotten the order of the ‘student-athlete’

Schools have forgotten the order of the ‘student-athlete’

Being a student-athlete is a privilege, and not a right. But some colleges apparently have forgotten what that means.

Look at the term again … “student-athlete.” Which word comes first?

If the individual student cannot perform the simple capabilities they have been performing since they were a pre-schooler, then they do not deserve the right to be an athlete for the school.

The school, in return, should set the example for how a student-athlete should do in class … not give them an easy way out so that they can make their sports teams look good.

Recently, three high-profile cases of academic fraudulence have been on the news, from three very high-profile schools: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (popularly known as University of North Carolina), Dartmouth University and The University of Syracuse.

The more publicized scandal, coming from UNC, was a big ordeal. Starting in 1993, and continuing on until 2011, the school repeatedly had athletes from its football and basketball programs sign up for fake classes and gave them “watered-down” requirements for the classes, i.e. only having to turn in one research paper to pass, to keep them eligible to play.

None of this became public until a 2010 NCAA investigation into UNC’s football program brought all this to light. It wasn’t until 2013, however, when former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein opened up his own investigation, which implicated the long-term scandal.

The two school officlals in the center of it all were office administrator Deborah Crowder, now retired, and former department chairman Julius Nyang’oro. Crowder started creating paper classes, registering student-athletes for the courses, and also assigned the topics and handed out high grades regardless of the quality of work submitted. Once the semesters were over, she would sign Nyang’oro’s name to the grade rolls. In the years to come, Crowder would start offering lecture classes that would never meet.

Once she retired in 2009, football counselors, who were concerned about their athletes becoming ineligible to play, urged Nyang’oro to continue with the sham classes. In 2011, he stepped down due to increased scrutiny by the initial investigation. He was eventually charged with one count of felony fraud in Wainstein’s investigation, but had the charges dropped due to cooperating with Wainstein during the investigation. Crowder was not charged at all.

During the 18-year cheating fix, around 3,100 students, half of them athletes, were affected by the automatic grades and sham classes. Some of those athletes, like former guard Rashad McCants (2005), were members of UNC’s national championship basketball teams in 1993, 2005 and 2009.

How does a university as prestigious as UNC look at something like that and just sweep it under the rug? Somebody had to have seen it. Somebody with the right moral fortitude should’ve been able to see through the smoke and say, “Hey, this football player travels throughout the country and is managing to attend ALL THESE CLASSES??? And is PASSING???”

Seriously? UNC should’ve known better.

Dartmouth University is just as guilty, though their transgressions didn’t last nearly as long. During the Fall 2014 semester, more than 270 students were enrolled in a “Sports, Ethics and Religion” course specifically designed for student athletes. The class, taught by religion professor Randall Balmer, was the largest in all of Dartmouth. Close to 70 percent of the class was, you guessed it, varsity athletes.

To be exact, here is the breakdown:

The class had 61 football players, 16 men’s hockey players, 12 men’s basketball players, 10 men’s soccer players, and nine players each from the baseball, women’s soccer and women’s lacrosse teams. In all, 24 of Dartmouth’s varsity teams were represented in the class, and according to a recent report published on, 24.6 percent of the Dartmouth student population (6,244) is represented by athletes.

According to reports, 64 students in the class had been accused of cheating for allegedly using electronic clickers to answer in-class questions for absent students. Balmer started investigating when he saw that the number of answers received outweighed the number of students he had in his class.

The end result: most of the students were suspended for a semester, and were docked one letter grade.

In the case of Syracuse, they received a punishment from the NCAA that was so severe, that their football and basketball teams had to vacate what is most important to them: wins.

In a seven-year investigation by the NCAA, the longest such investigation for any cheating scandal in NCAA history, it was found that Syracuse University, primarily the football and basketball teams, received improper assistance from staffers in coursework, and falsified internship hours for credit in the child and family services major over the last decade.

On March 6, the school received their punishment. The men’s basketball team had to vacate 108 wins between 2004 and 2012 due to using academically ineligible players; this was the second most vacated wins in NCAA history.

The men’s basketball coach, Jim Boeheim, who was second all-time in overall wins with 966, was dropped to 858, which now places him sixth all-time. He was also suspended for the first nine games of next season.

The football team voluntarily vacated all 11 wins from their 2004 to 2006 seasons, and was placed on probation until the 2020 season, which restricts them from any postseason participation.

What is the life lesson we are teaching our student-athletes? Since when did higher learning become all about athletic prowess?

It’s a shame when you see the average student slaving away to EARN their degree. Yet the student-athlete, who is held to a higher standard [and rightfully so], is given a hall pass.

Being a student-athlete is a privilege, and not a right.

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Schools have forgotten the order of the ‘student-athlete’