Full length book coverage of the systemic academic fraud in athletic programs at UNC-Chapel Hill

I discussed the systematic fraud in the UNC academic and athletic programs in my previous post last October: Two humongous explosions in open frontiers I’m watching – space and education

The short version of the scandal: one department at UNC-Chapel Hill offered paper classes to around 3,100 students over 18 years. A new book points out the courses lifted many students GPAs above the NCAA minimum requirement. One student even made Dean’s list in a semester when he says he did no academic work.

The department running the scheme used codes from three different areas to prevent students from appearing to accumulate too many hours in one department, which would have run afoul of academic rules. To lift students GPAs would need multiple classes for each student. I’ve not seen guesses on how many courses were faked. Do you suppose it was 5 per student? 8? In other words, perhaps 15,000 or 24,000 fake grades.

A new book, Cheated By Jay M. Smith and Mary Willingham goes in to far more detail than the three previous investigations.

The book is reviewed at The Wall Street Journal: Dark Days in Chapel Hill / If you ran a college and knew there was substantial money to be had from sports but no requirement to educate athletes, you might cut corners—that’s exactly what the University of North Carolina did for nearly two decades.

On those alleged investigations…The first, by the NCAA, didn’t find anything of importance and instead of slapping the school’s wrist, merely tapped their knuckles.

The second one, conducted by the University, found the entire athletic department knew nothing about anything.

The third investigation, also funded by UNC, found the second one to be a whitewash. Description in the article is “fairy tale.” My biased description of the latest report as it describes the second report (update):  it found every administrator in the university system along with every academic on campus, other than the perp and the department director, knew nothing about anything and had responsibility to do nothing about anything.

Walter Russell Mead was quite put out with the alleged investigations: The Utter Moral Collapse of UNC-Chapel Hill. I previously mentioned that he called the reports a whitewash. He considered the fiasco a

Massive, systemic academic fraud…

The WSJ article starts by pointing out that of the four most recent champs of college basketball and football, only one graduated more than 50% of the men with scholarships. That means three of four graduated less than 50%. Yet all four averaged $30M of profits from the team.

The book’s authors inform us that Chapel Hill, like other large schools, has a special committee that grants admission waivers to top athletes. UNC admitted athletes at the 15th percentile on verbal SATs. The authors claim one basketball player reads at the third-grade level.

The article says the Athletic Director makes $565K a year plus bonuses for the teams’ wins. The football and men’s basketball coaches each make $1.8M a year.

What do the student-athletes get?

Not much.

The book says that since the academic fraud got going, less than 20% of the Chapel Hill scholarship athletes have been drafted by either the NFL or NBA. The article says the average across the NCAA is about 2% of the scholarship players get drafted.

The better payoff would be to hit the books, assuming the major was actually marketable:

Because a bachelor’s degree adds about $1 million to lifetime earnings, the diploma is the potential economic reward for the overwhelming majority of college athletes.

For practically all scholarship athletes, the route to a better life is to rely on the academic learning, not the draft call that will never come. But the university isn’t providing education to the athletes.


The obvious priority is generating that $30M operating profit.  UNC provided paper classes to keep the athletes academically eligible.

Full disclosure:  I suppose it’s worth mentioning again that I graduated from the University of Maryland-College Park. If memory serves correctly, that means I’m supposed to have a life-long habit of rooting against UNC-Chapel Hill and the other tobacco road teams.

While I was an undergrad, the student newspaper reported that the average GPA for the basketball team was D-. (I think that was the average, but my recollection is hazy.) Keeping the average from sinking even lower was one player who had a B+ or A- in accounting, which helped a lot. As I recall, the newspaper got in trouble after the article came out.

Based on the article above, lousy academic performance is a systemic issue across the NCAA. Apparently UNC-Chapel Hill figured out one solution to that inconvenient problem.

I already have a long backlog of books to read. Otherwise, Cheated would be on my Amazon want list.

Update:  George Leef, at The John William Pope Center, has a great review of the book in his article, Cheated turns over a rock, fully exposing UNC’s “student-athlete” scandal.

I’m guessing the consensus around the country is that this isn’t just an issue at UNC; they just got caught.  He points out that the authors are wondering how many other coaches around the country are worried they are next to get found out.

Mr. Leef cites one alleged student who said that he was his family’s lottery ticket. That attitude permeates high school sports, where schools enable students to let studies slide in order to get attention from college recruiters. Same pattern repeats in colleges. Students throw away their chance to get an actual education in return hoping they will be in the teeny-tiny, under 1% of college athletes who get a pro contract.

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