NCAA Gets Serious About Cheating By Punishing Some Tiny, Obscure College In Michigan

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association placed Kalamazoo College on probation for three years earlier this week for distributing financial aid partially based on athletic ability — a no-no for NCAA Division III schools.

The NCAA Division III infractions committee determined that financial aid staffers at Kalamazoo used a rating system that gave bonuses to prospective students who were good at various sports, reports Inside Higher Ed.

All told, 567 students received sweetened financial aid packages because of their athletic abilities during a period of at least five years. It’s not clear how much aid the student-athletes received. The current cost for a single year of tuition, fees and room and board at Kalamazoo College is $51,732.

The head baseball coach at the 1,403-student private school communicated brazenly to recruits about the bonus system, according to an NCAA statement.

The baseball coach “sent recruiting emails to nearly 30 prospects detailing the college’s financial aid process,” the NCAA found. “In the emails, he told prospects that the college’s admissions office would increase merit-based financial aid upon his written recommendation.”

The scheme does not appear to have helped the Kalamazoo College Hornets baseball squad much — at all. The team has routinely finished well under .500 for the last 10 years. The last time the team approached mediocrity was in 2006, with a 20-20 finish.

In addition to the three years of probation, the NCAA’s penalties include a post-season ban for any Kalamazoo College varsity team that has any players on its roster who obtained enhanced financial aid because of their participation in sports. The ban will be rescinded for any teams that stop giving extra aid to players.

Division III colleges and universities can consider athletic ability in the admissions process, but members of the division have agreed not to use athletics as a reason to provide financial aid.

The NCAA’s investigation of Kalamazoo College and the consequent punishment against the school have been relatively swift compared to the nonprofit athletic association’s glacially-paced investigation of the sickening athletic scam at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The NCAA investigation of Kalamazoo began in 2013 and was concluded this month. Evidence concerning North Carolina’s 18 years of rampant academic fraud surfaced as early as 2011.

The shocking con — which involved dozens of athletes who for years were deliberately enrolled in fake classes and awarded passing grades to keep them eligible for sports — was fully publicized thanks to the confessions of two whistle-blowers.

Deans, coaches and professors within certain sham academic departments of the prestigious, public, taxpayer-funded school were complicit in placing basketball and football players with underdeveloped learning skills in classes that didn’t exist and never actually met. The only requirements were that the students write final papers consisting of a few sentences — a task too difficult for some, who could only read and write at an elementary school level. Still, the players all received grades of either A or B.

One of the highest-ranking officials at North Carolina has gone on record with a deep and formal apology for the school’s flagrant, longstanding academic racket. (RELATED: University Of North Carolina Vows: No More Fake Classes For Jocks)

The fake classes were mostly in the African-American studies department. Department head Julius Nyang’oro was listed as the instructor for the classes, but he wasn’t even in the United States at times. He was charged with a felony for defrauding the university.

Mary Willingham, a UNC academic adviser since 2003, became increasingly uncomfortable with the administration’s willingness to lie and cheat in order to keep its athletes eligible. After working with students who could barely read or write — but were still somehow passing their classes with flying colors — Willingham finally decided she had had enough, and began leaking information to news reporters.

Amazingly, the University of North Carolina responded to Willingham’s allegations by chastising her and suspending her on the technicality that researchers must protect the identities of research subjects.

North Carolina’s powerhouse men’s basketball team plays Indiana this Friday in the Sweet 16 round of this year’s NCAA tournament. A critical bid to the round of eight teams and, then, possibly, the Final Four is on the line.

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