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March 9, 2015 — Two major scandals coming to a head

Two major Division I universities have begun taking steps to try to redress some long-term systemic problems with the systems in place to deal with the academic eligibility of their student-athletes.

But it’s anyone’s guess whether the steps are enough; nay, it’s anyone’s guess as to how deep the violations at the University of North Carolina and at Syracuse went.

Thus far, four staff members at Carolina — two lecturers and two members of the academic support staff — have lost their jobs, albeit one moved within the UNC system to the Wilmington, N.C. campus.

The UNC scandal broke Oct. 22 of last year, with a report detailing two decades’ worth of academic fraud in a number of departments on the Chapel Hill campus. Chief amongst the departments cited was the African and Afro-American Studies department, which enrolled about 3,100 students — mostly athletes — in easy-to-pass classes and independent study schemes. The low-expectation courses led to high grades that kept some student-athletes academically eligible.

Thus far, no coaches have been cited or sanctioned in this particular episode. That cannot be said for the ongoing academic scandal at Syracuse University. Thus far, only head men’s basketball coach Jim Boeheim has been sanctioned personally for what has been a pretty horrific lack of institutional control which allegedly lasted the better part of a decade.

In an eight-year investigation, Syracuse was found to have given improper benefits to athletes, changed grades to allow star player Fab Melo to be able to play in 2012, and pretty well disregarded its written drug-testing policy.

The punishment, as meted out last weekend, was pretty severe. Boeheim lost more than 100 wins, and the team is losing a dozen scholarships over the next few years going forward. The football team is losing three years’ worth of wins from the mid-2000s.

But despite the fact that the loss of institutional control was alleged to have occurred between 2000 and 2011, the NCAA did not level any sanctions against the 2003 men’s basketball team, which won the NCAA title.

The sanctions leveled by the NCAA, however, were somewhat feckless in light of a number of violations which have occurred at the university over the years. Syracuse played its 1992 and 1993 seasons under probation, meaning that the team didn’t appear on national TV and did not play in the postseason. This was because of improper benefits from boosters.

In addition to this scandal, the 1990 men’s lacrosse team had its national championship vacated because of a car loan to star player Paul Gait.

I’m surprised the same didn’t happen to the men’s basketball title. But then again, given the lack of control the NCAA has on its member schools in a rapidly changing world of collegiate sport, it’s par for the course.

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