Calling the Shots: Academic fraud assists UNC athletes


Former University of North Carolina shooting guard Rashad McCants dribbles up the court in a game against Santa Clara University. Last June, McCants admitted to taking artificial classes to inflate his grades and maintain his eligibility.

Seth Barshay, Sports Editor

In recent times, the NCAA has had one argument against those who say that college athletes deserve to be paid: their payment is a college education.  In order to ensure that student athletes work hard in their classes, the NCAA has set the number of unsatisfactory grades a student athlete can receive before being deemed ineligible to play.  
Student athletes, according to NCAA rules, are also not supposed to receive special benefits in academics compared to regular students.
However, over the past eighteen years, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill athletes have been receiving high grades for classes that they were not required to attend; instead, each athlete only had to write a paper at the end of the term to receive a grade.  In most of these so-called “paper classes,” the teachers would not even read the submitted papers.
Earlier this year UNC hired former United States Department of Justice official Kenneth L.  Wainstein for an independent investigation.  
On Oct 22, Wainstein released his report based on the eight-month investigation; it includes several shocking statistics of what is being called one of the worst cases, if not the worst case, of academic fraud in the history of NCAA athletics.  
The report says that over 3,100 students received artificial grades from paper classes to maintain NCAA eligibility.  Forty seven percent of those students were student athletes, and most of that group of Tar Heels was on the football team.
The department to blame for the nonexistent courses is the African-American Studies department. The fraud was facilitated mainly by professor Debbie Crowder and department chairman Julius Nyang’oro.
In 2005, the UNC Tar Heels men’s basketball team won the national championship.  Of the 15 players on the roster, two thirds had majors in the notorious department.  
One such player, Rashad McCants, who was an instrumental member of the roster, admitted in June to having taken fake classes at UNC and to having tutors write his classwork.  
This is especially interesting because McCants was in contention for the Wooden Award during his tenure at UNC, a prestigious award that is partially based on academic performance.
“You’re not there to get an education, though they tell you that,” said McCants during a segment of Outside the Lines on ESPN.  “You’re there to make revenue for the college.  You’re there to put fans in the seats.”
The fact that a prestigious university like UNC could put the performance of its athletes over the academic integrity of the institution speaks to the amount of money brought into large schools by clothing endorsers like Nike and Adidas and lucrative television deals with broadcasters like ESPN.  
UNC and similar schools depend on their athletes for financial gain.  For many large programs, millions of dollars are at stake.
But those other schools did not give their athletes special benefits.  Syracuse University, for example, has had recent athletes become unable to play for academic reasons.  Several seasons ago, the NCAA declared star basketball player Fab Melo ineligible for the NCAA tournament, affecting the then-contender’s odds. A similar situation likely would not have happened at UNC due to its culture of cheating.
Schools need to realize that the education of these students should be of utmost importance, especially during present times in which student athletes looking toward the pros view these classes as formalities.  
A recent study on UNC athletes from 2004 to 2012 indicated that 60% read at levels between those of fourth and eighth grade.  This is shocking, to say the least, especially for a school like UNC that previously prided itself on its academics.  
At Schreiber, we are lucky to have a policy in place to determine academic eligibility that is actually followed, unlike that of UNC-Chapel Hill.  If a student were to fail at least two subjects in any given marking period, that student would be ineligible for Vikings athletics for the entirety of the next marking period.  
Last school year, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association named Schreiber a Scholar Athlete Team School of Distinction; in addition, each varsity team last year was a Scholar Athlete team.  A team is recognized when its players have a composite GPA of at least 90 when converted from Schreiber’s GPA to a scale from one to 100.