NCAA Cracks Down on College Cheaters with New Rules that Penalize Coaches


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New rules have improved academic performance of student athletes.

Division I men’s basketball and football student-athletes are finishing their college degrees at their highest rates ever, according to the NCAA. This comes at a time of widespread college sports scandals, including USC, Ohio State and Penn State football punishments making them ineligible to participate in bowl games and more. Other colleges currently sanctioned include South Carolina, North Carolina, Baylor, George Tech and Texas Tech. Some observers describe this era as one of the worst in terms of cheating.

To cope with a seemingly endless number of scandals, the NCAA just adopted tougher penalties to discourage coaches from engaging in illegal activities.

The NCAA's action culminates a year-long effort from a 13-member group of presidents, athletics directors and others to provide more stringent rules to uphold the integrity of  collegiate athletics.

“We have sought all along to remove the ‘risk-reward’ analysis that has tempted people – often because of the financial pressures to win at all costs – to break the rules in the hopes that either they won’t be caught or that the consequences won’t be very harsh if they do get caught,” said NCAA President Mark Emmert.

The new rules  become  effective Aug. 1, 2013.

“A more sensible rules book combined with a more efficient way to enforce those rules will serve to sustain the collegiate model and restore public trust in college sports and the NCAA,” Nathan Hatch, president of Wake Forest, said. “

As for the penalties themselves, a spokesman said the group felt that the current structure didn’t offer enough of a deterrent for coaches and others who believe the anticipated benefits and advantages resulting from premeditated rules violations outweigh the severity of punishment.

Postseason bans, scholarship reductions and financial sanctions, among others, remain part of the penalty packages. The change in the rules gives the NCAA the latitude to customize the penalty according to the severity of the violation.

Enhanced penalties for coaches highlight the new rules. Since 2008, about a dozen cases have occurred in which a head coach was found to have violated his or her responsibility by law by either not promoting an atmosphere of compliance of NCAA rules or for not monitoring his or her staff, or both.

Under the new rules, if a violation occurs, the head coach is presumed responsible, and if he or she can’t overcome that presumption, charges will follow.

“We expect head coaches to provide practices and training and written materials that instruct their assistant coaches how to act,” a spokesman said. “If they’ve done that it can become mitigating evidence that they shouldn’t be held accountable for what the assistant coach did. But head coaches have to have these things in place or the presumption will be that he or she didn’t care enough to set standards. In that case, if the assistant goes rogue, then it’s partly the head coach’s fault and they need to be held accountable.”

The history of cheating in college football is long and ugly. Steward Mandel on SI.Com in 2007 wrote, “Cheating in college football is a tradition as old as the sport itself. In fact, it's hard to imagine one without the other. Scandal is almost as much a part of the sport's culture as tailgating and fight songs.”

Mandel wrote that boosters are often behind the scandals. “But only the most common acts of deceit do not take place on actual playing fields; they go down in country clubs and living rooms, back-alleys and parking lots, or wherever else one might choose to partake in hush-hush transactions. And oftentimes, the perpetrators aren't even actual participants -- they're fans. Fans who really want to see their team win and who possess the financial means -- not to mention the ethical leniency -- to help.”

In the 1950s it was alleged that one school would have a small plane drop bags filled with cash on the farm of football players they were recruiting.

“College football's worst-kept secret is the age-old tradition of boosters -- often with a coach's implicit approval -- buying the services of blue-chip recruits and/or fattening star players' wallets during their stay on campus. Tales of hundred-dollar handshakes, cash-filled duffle bags and shiny new cars date back to at least the days of legendary coach Bear Bryant, whose Texas A&M teams were placed on NCAA probation in the 1950s as a result of the coach soliciting the help of a few deep-pocketed oil men in the Aggies' recruiting efforts. Corruption became so commonplace in the old Southwest Conference that at one point in the '80s seven of the nine schools had been placed on probation, most notably SMU, which received the NCAA "death penalty" (and was forced to shut its football program down for one year) for a series of booster-related scandals of which school personnel were not only aware but involved,” according to Mandel.

Coach Jim Tresselteam withOhio State’s football coach, Jim Tressel (pictured at left) resigned due to a scandal that has dominated the news for weeks.

 At the same time, the NCAA has emphasized improving the dismal graduation rates in college athletics, and those changes have had an impact. In men’s basketball, the latest Graduation Success Rate has climbed to 74 percent, up 6 points from last year. In FBS football, the GSR has hit 70 percent, up 1 point.

NCAA President Mark Emmert says, “We are not satisfied, but we are proud that we have reached another milestone, as now seven of every 10 student-athletes in our highest-profile sports are earning their degrees.”Emmert noted that only 1.3 percent of men’s basketball student-athletes and 1.6 percent of football student-athletes go on to careers in professional athletics.

Men’s basketball and football traditionally have posted the lowest graduation rates among all sports. But in the 11 years since GSR data have been collected, men’s basketball is up 18 points – and is 21 points higher for African-American males in the sport. FBS football is up 7 points, and African-Americans in football have seen their GSR climb 9 percentage points.

The GSR for the last four graduating classes of all Division I student-athletes (2002-2005) remains at 80 percent, still an all-time high for the NCAA, Emmert said. The most recent one-year GSR for the 2005 class is 81 percent, down 1 point from last year. Most other sports remained steady or were down slightly in year-to-year comparisons (Download the 2012 GSR and Fed Trends PDF).

A number of Division I basketball teams have been penalized for  low team grades. The  University of Connecticut, the 2011 national champions were hit with scholarship restrictions for the 2011-12 season after their four-year aggregate of low grades - the second-lowest score of any football, men's or women's basketball squad in a BCS conference, and the Huskies will be banned from postseason play in 2013.

Syracuse, Cal State-Northridge, Chicago State, Grambling, Louisiana-Monroe and Southern are some of the other basketball schools that have been hit with penalties for poor academic performance. Southern was the first school hit with a postseason ban in both basketball and football.


Contact your local library for more resources on this topic.

Bowls, Polls & Tattered Souls
by Stewart Mandel

A Payroll to Meet: A Story of Greed, Corruption and Football at SMU
by David Whitford

Meat Market - Inside the Smash-Mouth World of College Football Recruiting
by  Bruce Feldman

College Football: History - Spectacle - Controversy
by John Sayle Watterson

The Courting of Marcus Dupree
by Willie Morris.

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Watch the trailer for Pony Excess.



Image credit:

Hayden Tippett By West Point Public Affairs

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