This past Tuesday, Outside The Lines broadcast a piece regarding an unfolding academic scandal unfolding at UNC which, according to the whistleblower that provided the attached image, has been funneling athletes at the university into sham classes that require minimal effort, work requirements, and low standards for high performance. The web’s big takeaway from the unfolding scandal is based on the essay attached, which reportedly received an A- grade and is, by all accounts, a terrible paper about Rosa Parks.
I’m sure that all of us can agree that this paper, its grade, and the diploma factory that is UNC’s African and Afro-American Studies program are all fronts to allow athletes to circumvent what are generally accepted principles associated with getting a college diploma – hard work, diligent study, and an appreciation of the material which you are learning. How you react to this paper is a reliable litmus test for where you fall in the grander debate regarding college athletics, and the standards that are asked of college athletes required to maintain an academic record consistent with the eligibility requirements associated with the athletic scholarships big-name universities give to their athletes.
This idea can be argued from two sides: one that puts the NCAA system at fault and one that puts the university at fault. On one hand, (many, most?), people will point the finger at UNC for a joke program that’s clearly designed for keeping athletes eligible to maintain their athletic scholarships when they would otherwise most likely fail out. It’s an absolute violation of the spirit, if not the letter, of college sports, and is deserving of strong sanctions from the NCAA. UNC deserves blame for blatantly cheating the system, and on the athletes for skating to a degree without putting in any work, where other college students are putting in much greater work for a much steeper scale of acceptable performance.
On the other hand, the argument could be made that the NCAA system is at fault. That the NCAA’s amateurism model is a joke that invites exploitation of athletes and academics alike, and encourages schools to bend rules to enroll teenagers who everyone knows are there first and foremost for their athletic abilities. They are compensated solely by a college education, which many of them either don’t need, don’t want, don’t qualify for, and don’t know what to do with after they get it. The money is in sports for big-name universities, and to keep that money flowing and the best athletes coming, of course schools are going to pull things like this. The athletes are merely pawns (unfortunately), in a scheme that makes others very, very rich.