Paul M. Barrett, author of Bloomberg Businessweek’s article on UNC’s academic scandal, summarized some of the responses from the comments on the piece. Some were on expected veins, including charges that Barrett was singling out UNC unfairly or incorrectly suggesting that all athletes were poor students. But one response from Andrew Dykers, a UNC alumnus, deserves some exploration:
Rather than basing NCAA eligibility on the current sliding scale of SAT and GPA scores (which is ripe for manipulation at the high school level), universities should instead meet academically challenged athletes ‘where they are’ by offering a Core Competency degree. Such a degree would emphasize reading, writing, arithmetic, and computer literacy.
This is the logical conclusion of the “year of academic readiness” concept which was has been floated in various forms and levels of formality since about 2010. That idea would be to give nonqualifiers an extra redshirt year at a junior college where they would take remedial courses. Dykers’s idea expands that to be an athlete’s education during his or her entire eligibility, more or less repeating high school. Dykers goes on:
Students who successfully complete a Core Competency degree (and subsequent SAT requirements) may be granted admission into their university’s B.A. or B.S. programs, but scholarship benefits would end the same as they do today. In other words, the academically challenged athlete who participates in a Core Competency program might not complete a B.A. or B.S. degree before their scholarship expires, but they would be attaining real skills in an honest fashion as well as moving closer to their B.A. or B.S. degree. One might say this idea turns academically esteemed universities into remedial institutions, but a Core Competency degree would establish fundamental academic honesty while facilitating athletic opportunity.
The biggest change that would have to be made to this concept is that scholarship benefits should continue past the completion of the Core Competency program. If collegiate athletics continues to insist (and is allowed to continued to insist) on amateurism, then a bachelor’s degree remains the primary compensation for athletes. Taking that away from the athletes who most need athletics to have that opportunity would reduce the value of what they get out of college athletics too far. Part of the commitment to academically challenged or underprepared athletes should be to see them through all the way to a bachelor’s degree.
Both longer eligibility for scholarships and some sort of remediation for athletes seem to be inevitable at this point. Dykers’ suggestion of a degree program seems too far off at this point. But do not be surprised when the NCAA adopts something similar but smaller in scale in the next few years.