HOUSTON – Soon after Syracuse or North Carolina — two schools that have been entangled in academic misconduct issues — plays for the national championship, the NCAA Division I council is likely to approve the first changes in 33 years to the way the association regulates classroom improprieties.
North Carolina faces Syracuse in the second Final Four game Saturday night at NRG Stadium. The winner faces either Oklahoma or Villanova on Monday night. Later in the week, the Division I council will consider a proposal passed last year by the committee on academics.
The hope is that the proposal will provide clarity on when the NCAA should be involved in academic misconduct cases. The reality is the NCAA cannot take the lead in policing how a university is educating its students.
“As a university president, I understood clearly that academic integrity in the classroom is first and foremost the responsibility of the professor that’s there, then the department head, then an associate dean, then a dean, then a provost and ultimately a president,” NCAA President Mark Emmert told the AP this week.
“So in principle you’ve got a chain of command, all of which has as one of its fundamental responsibilities to make sure what’s going on in the classroom has integrity and meets the standards of that university,” he said. “To have the NCAA, an athletic association, then go over the top of all of those administrators and go down into the classroom and say, ‘No, no, no, we don’t think this is a good enough English class or a good enough math class,’ makes no sense whatsoever.”
Syracuse was sanctioned by the NCAA last year after a long investigation found a lack of institutional control. The bulk of the violations concerned athletic department officials interfering with academics and making sure star players stayed eligible. In that case, the problems more clearly stepped into the NCAA’s domain.
At North Carolina, the NCAA is investigating the role of athletic department staffers in steering athletes toward bogus independent studies classes. The NCAA took a while to become involved in North Carolina’s issues because the fake classes were available to all students, not just athletes. Emmert has said, without being specific, the conclusion of that investigation is near.
At the 2015 NCAA convention, NCAA vice president of enforcement Jon Duncan said he felt academic misconduct was on the rise in college sports and that his department was handling 20 open investigations.
“The enforcement staff continues to treat academic misconduct as a priority,” Duncan said in a statement to the AP on Saturday. “We believe that is consistent with member expectations and best for the student-athletes. We are still seeing significant activity in this area.”
Ohio University President Rod McDavis led the committee on academics and says the goal is to “sharpen the line between what an institution is responsible for and what the NCAA is responsible for.”
The proposal states:
— Academic misconduct legislation should be consolidated in one location in the Division I manual.
This is possibly the most significant change.
“We tried to take all of the pieces of different policies and legislation and so forth that were part of the NCAA and say can we get all of that and put it in one place, under one umbrella?” McDavis said. “So you don’t have to look in 20 places to find out where the NCAA stands on this.”
— Schools must have and adhere to written academic misconduct policies.
Most schools do, but now the NCAA is emphasizing that this will be the first line of defense.
— Involvement of staff or coaches in athlete academic misconduct should be an NCAA violation.
“What are the regulations that UNC would have or any institution would have that would indicate to them what steps they need to take,” McDavis said. “Then the line of demarcation for us is that if there had been student-athletes and coaches and employees in athletics involved in the matter, obviously then it becomes an NCAA issue. But we wanted to make clear that our fundamental belief is that first and foremost these are institutional matters that ought to be dealt with under the rules regulations and policies that the institution has in place.”
Ralph D. Russo