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Academic Fraud Discussion Starts With NCAA Feedback

The NCAA reported that after having its two biggest academic committees discuss the NCAA’s academic fraud rules, the first major step toward possible reform of those rules will be to get feedback from the membership:

The Academic Cabinet and Committee on Academic Performance discussed the issue throughout the summer and fall, but now the groups need feedback from the membership to decide if any changes to current rules are necessary. If the membership does want change, the key questions remain: How should the NCAA define academic misconduct? And, when should the NCAA get involved?

Any confusion seems to stem from how academic fraud is defined by the NCAA. It is rooted in ethical conduct and the distinction between what has to be reported to the NCAA and what can be handled by the school comes from a nuanced interpretation. Whether a case has to go to the NCAA is based on the actions and culpability of staff members, either in arranging for fraudulent credit or allowing the athlete to play while ineligible. Those small distinctions turn academic misconduct into potential NCAA violations that have severe consequences up to and including loss of all remaining eligibility.

Combine that with different procedures on each campus and the general defense of academic freedoms by universities and it shows why the NCAA cannot move forward without membership input. Even then, some of the goals seem modest:

“I hope, at the end of this discussion, when I’m in a room with practitioners or even faculty athletics representatives, asking when you have to report an academic misconduct issue to the NCAA doesn’t prompt an hour-long, mind-boggling conversation,” [former N.C. State associate AD Carrie] Leger said. “I hope we can all say we get it. For me, that would be success.”

The Committee on Academic Performance also made two changes with regards to APR penalties:

  • Due to institutions missing deadlines and not having penalties finalized until very late in the process, some student-athletes who would have been allowed to transfer because of a postseason ban missed that opportunity. CAP adopted a June 1 deadline to finish the process or inform student-athlete there might be a postseason ban and establishes a policy to allow student-athletes to transfer if there is a possibility the team will be banned from the postseason for the rest of their eligibility.
  • Adopted a policy to allow institutions who must make an in-person appearance before the committee because of repeatedly poor APR numbers to appear before a hearing panel. CAP is afraid the higher 930 APR requirement will create so many required hearings that the full committee will not be able to accommodate them all.

The hearing panel decision makes perfect sense, although its mere existence is a worrying sign for a potential rise in the number of APR penalties. The June 1 deadline and looser transfer policy will be good for student-athletes and may clear up some confusion about which athletes are allowed to transfer and play immediately or not. But it will be guaranteed to create an ugly fight the first time an institution is granted a late reprieve from a postseason ban.

Are you ready for the NEXT STEP!