When the favorite in the finals of the NCAA championship basketball tournament is currently under investigation for one of the most egregious academic fraud cases ever in college sports is it really March Madness?
Or is it simply March Normal?
Seems appropriate that North Carolina has an edge against Villanova in the battle to be the biggest and the baddest in college basketball. In terms of NCAA allegations, UNC is the reigning champ.
For nearly two decades, UNC gave ??paper courses,?? where nearly 3,000 students, about half of them athletes, took phantom courses that never took place. The only requirement was a paper that got a high grade no matter what.
Compare that to North Carolina??s Final Four opponent on Saturday, Syracuse.
At Syracuse, some employees were actually writing the papers for student/athletes.? After investigations into the Syracuse athletic program, the NCAA vacated more than 100 wins, and Coach Jim Boeheim sat out the first nine games of this year.
What will happen to Carolina?
It gets to play in the championship game, against Villanova, no stranger itself to NCAA discipline.
In 2003, 12 players on Villanova??s men??s team were suspended for misuse of a university phone code for unauthorized phone calls. The school was put on probation for two years. Incredibly, coach Jay Wright wasn??t fired, kept his job, and continues as Villanova??s leader.
NCAA President Mark Emmert has indicated that a decision on North Carolina would come soon after the tournament. The Associated Press reports that the delay was due to there being so many non-athletes also involved in the phantom courses.
Sounds like a weak excuse when every other student involved (roughly half of the total) was an athlete.
Meanwhile, concern over how the National Collegiate Athletic Association generally conducts its business has reached Congress.
Republican Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania introduced H.R. 2731, the National Collegiate Athletics Accountability Act last summer.? The bill has been languishing in the subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.
The NCAA Act seeks to amend Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to require colleges to agree to some tough provisions.
They include an annual baseline concussion test for contact sports; due process procedures for students and institutions; student aid to be guaranteed up to four years; and payments to student athletes through stipends.
You pay for a TA to grade papers? Here is a stipend for touchdowns and jumpshots.
But even bigger than that is the establishment of a Presidential Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics to review, analyze, and report to the President and Congress.
At last, real oversight.
Congress has been waiting to see what the NCAA will do with North Carolina before acting.
If it??s too soft, Congress may come down hard. Real hard. So expect the NCAA to really blow the whistle on UNC.
NY Congressman John Kotko hopes so.
??I think the NCAA??s corruption is profound,?? Kotko told the Syracuse Media Group editorial board in January. ??I mean, when you have children being raped on campus at Penn State, and the sanctions get all basically peeled back, and Joe Paterno doesn’t lose any of his victories, they’re all reinstated, and then they pound Boeheim and take away a hundred of his victories [actually, 101], give me a break. It’s so uneven. It’s ridiculous.??
Sure, Kotko is rooting for his home team. But he said the NCAA Act has bipartisan support from around the country from Democrats like California??s Mike Honda and Illinois?? Bobby Rush.
??The bill is actually a good bill because we have a hook through our federal funding for universities to take a look at it,?? Kotko said to the Syracuse Media editorial board. ??There really should be a commission formed to take a look at the entire ball of wax. We’re kind of waiting on what happens in North Carolina before we move forward.??
That??s why I??d say odds are the hammer will come down.
Or Congress will move to rein in the NCAA with a new NCAA.
Emil Guillermo is an award-winning journalist and commentator. He writes at http://www.aaldef.org/blog Contact: http://www.twitter.com/emilamok
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