by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Let’s look at the motivation for this gross academic fraud. If you said follow the money, go to the head of the class. UNC’s basketball team generates $20 million in profits for the university. Football generates $22 million. Basketball and football coaches are paid salaries in excess of $2 million. The only way a university can pay those salaries and generate that kind of revenue is to assemble a winning team. That means many universities are more interested in an athlete’s playing skills than in his academic skills. In other words, whether a student can read, write and compute means little compared with whether he can slam-dunk a basketball or make touchdowns.
Last week, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt issued an apology and an institutional mea culpa. It has a hollow ring. She must have been aware of the efforts of Mary Willingham, the whistleblower academic adviser at UNC who had spoken out against the gross fraud regarding the academic performance of revenue-sport athletes. Plus, former UNC basketball player Rashad McCants told ESPN that he received top grades in classes that did not require attendance and that he turned in papers that tutors wrote for him.
This cheating scandal raises another issue, namely that of exploiting athletes for the benefit of universities. I think that the time has come to abandon the athlete-scholar charade. Universities ought to pay athletes a competitive salary in line with everyone else involved in college sports. Most basketball and football players will see their playing days end when they leave college. Many players who participate in university fraud in order to maintain their player eligibility are black. Where will they end up when they graduate in possession of a fraudulent college degree other than sad, embittered, used and having nowhere to turn?
While UNC’s cheating agenda has been fully exposed, I’d bet the rent money that similar fraudulent practices are widespread at other universities, and whistleblowers should come forth.