ATHENS – The University of North Carolina is good at this cheating stuff. So is Auburn, it seems.
Georgia, not so much. The Bulldogs must suck at cheating. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Meantime, you may have heard, the Tar Heels skated again. Yeah, for a few years now we’ve been told how the NCAA was about to bring the hammer down on this regal basketball program for the prolonged and systemic act of academic fraud. We even were led to believe that the NCAA was going to make an example of the Tar Heels by making its announcement regarding the years-long investigation specifically this Friday because that was the same day North Carolina planned to hoist its latest basketball national championship banner in its gymnasium.
Instead, the NCAA informed us Friday it “could not conclude North Carolina violated NCAA rules.” Oh, its report validated accusations that the school’s athletes, primarily men’s basketball players, had been steered for years toward a bunch of bogus online classes in African Studies that helped keep them eligible. It was confirmed that these courses were “independent study” and required no tests or actual attendance and that basketball players took them by the dozens from 2002 to 2011. Apparently, the practice had been going on for years before that.
Here is what the NCAA said about that:
“While student-athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body. Additionally, the record did not establish that the university created and offered the courses as part of a systematic effort to benefit only student-athletes.”
Oh, really? Is that right?
So, just to get this straight, the worthless courses that these basketball players were taking to maintain their eligibility were NOT a violation of NCAA rules because regular students also took them. OK. Got it.
I bet Jim Harrick and Georgia basketball fans might like to hear a little more about that.
You might recall, the Bulldogs got burned badly about a similar issue. Only, basketball players weren’t routinely earning degrees in what amounted to be a bogus major.
No, UGA’s basketball program was pretty much torched because Jim Harrick Jr., Harrick’s son and an assistant for the basketball team, taught a physical education course for one semester that counted for one hour of credit called “Coaching Principles and Strategies of Basketball.”
You’ll no doubt remember it because so many people – including late-night talk-show hosts — had fun with one of the questions on Harrick Jr.’s final exam for that class. It was: “How many points is a 3-point shot worth?”
A lot of people got a big laugh out of that at Georgia’s expense. But the Harricks always maintained that no wrongs were committed with that course because the roll included only three basketball players and about 100 other regular students. And the reason everybody got such a big laugh out of that joke of a question included on that exam is because that’s exactly what Harrick Jr. intended it to be — a joke!
Meanwhile, everybody in the class received an A for the course. Not just the basketball players but everybody. So it wasn’t like UGA basketball players were enjoying an extra benefit.
Yet the NCAA denied UGA’s appeal of the case and went on to issue a seven-year show-cause order against Harrick Jr.
“Given the serious violations affirmed above, we find that the seven-year, show-cause order was neither excessive nor inappropriate,” the appeal committee said in its report.
As a result of that decision, UGA had to vacate 30 wins – 11 from January on of the 2002 season and all 19 from the 2002-03 season – for playing what the NCAA deemed were ineligible players during that span. Meanwhile, Harrick resigned, and Georgia basketball became a dumpster fire that Dennis Felton was charged with putting out over the next three seasons.
We’re told the reason the Bulldogs were hammered so hard was that the school admitted academic fraud. They thought they were doing the honorable thing and going to earn some leniency and respect from the NCAA by admitting wrongdoing. It could have been worse, then-president Michael Adams and the UGA legal team bragged to us.
The difference, I’ve been led to believe on Friday, is that North Carolina never admitted to academic fraud. The whole basis of the Tar Heels’ legal argument was these crip courses were offered to any student who wanted to sign up for them.
Of course, it was just Georgia basketball we were talking about then. Right?
In this latest case, however, the defendant is North Carolina, one of the greatest and most storied basketball programs. The Tar Heels are major players every year in the NCAA’s biggest moneymaker of all, the NCAA basketball tournament. The Tar Heels’ following and all the revenue they produce are just too valuable to their bottom line to take them out of the equation even for a year. That’s sure what it looks like.
I’m sure the NCAA will jump on its high horse and say none of that had anything to do with this. Then again, I’m not sure why we should ever listen to anything the NCAA has to say again.
I sincerely wonder, could there be a more toothless organization than the NCAA Enforcement staff? It’s a joke. That’s especially true when it comes to the area of academics, which we’re repeatedly told is the whole reason for the organization’s existence.
Remember when UGA football was burned to the ground because of the academic practices revealed by Jan Kemp in the 1980s? Apparently that was way back when the NCAA actually still had teeth.
It must have lost them sometime between then and 2000. That’s when we heard the shocking accusations leveled at Tennessee by former professor Linda Bensel-Meyers. Remember that name? Well, nothing ever came of that that I can recall.
And I’m sure the same result can be expected at Auburn, which is investigating accusations that at least one tutor took exams for at least one football player.
After all, very little ever has stuck on Auburn over the last several years, even though the NCAA seems to pull in there like it’s a bus stop. There were the Cameron Newton allegations in 2010, of which nothing ever came. Now the Tigers find themselves at the center of the basketball shoe company scandal, and there’s also a serious softball controversy they’re dealing with.
I doubt anything will come of those situations, either. Certainly not if the NCAA is involved. Or Georgia.