June 9, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
Results. Revenue. Rewards.
It’s why John “one and done” Calipari just got his just rewards to the sweet Kentucky-bourbon tune of about $52 million to stay at the U of K and keep doing what he’s doing. Hint: Making sure his student-athletes actually attend classes, do their own work and graduate isn’t one of them.
But really, now that Coach Bobby Knight has long since stopped throwing chairs at IU is any big-time sports collegiate program all that worried about the academic integrity of its program and whether their athletes actually get an education? You know, as opposed to retaining their eligibility to play ball, which as we should all know by now are two very different things.
Which brings us to the “other” big blue athletic program. The UNC Tar Heels at Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Recently, they find themselves and their program in an unflattering media light. This is largely due to very loud, very public allegations being made by one of its own. Former basketball star Rashad McCants has been telling anyone who listens that the 2005 UNC NCAA I championship basketball team was a joke. Academically speaking of course.
Apparently, his school day went something like this:
Get out of bed around noon. Eat. Hang around and chill with his pals. Play a video-game or two, or three. Go to Hoops practice. Lift weights. Shower, Change. Eat. Hang out. Repeat daily until game-day when there was no practice.
Classes? Homework? Papers?
That was for un-athletic chumps. Or in his case, and many of his teammates, that was for tutors or “Learning Specialists” to do so he and others could get straight “As” in African-American courses and he could keep doing what he says he did best-bring in big-time revenue for UNC and their alums.
That way everyone left the arena happy and no one (read: NCAA) was the wiser. Right?
Look, there has been a double-standard for a long-time now at schools when it comes to student-athletes and I don’t mean the crew-kids. Nope. Hoops and football.
So, what’s the big deal?
Allegedly, UNC had (has?) quite a system in place. If any of their big-time student-athletes gets into shaky academic ground then they are steered towards that magic, academic elixir known as Africa-American Studies or AFAM for short as the players call it. “A sure “A,” as one former put it or as McCants claims, “I never attended a single class, never wrote a paper, but got all “A”s and everyone, including the coaches (read Coach Roy Williams) knew about it.”
And while Roy Williams claims “disbelief” over McCants’ assertions, he’s far from the only one making such claims. In fact, several “tutors” or “Learning Specialists” such as former UNC employee Mary Willingham are stepping forward and hitting more than just net with their stories. Willingham says it’s simple, “We knew and we cheated, and we knew better.”
She holds Deans at the college complicit as well as the teams coaches. When their top athletes got into academic trouble, they knew what to do, she says, “steer them to the AFAM classes or “paper classes” as they were known, and poof, helping hands magically appear as if in a Harry Potter sorcerer’s scene and those Ds and FS in biology, chemistry, psychology and English get transformed into As. And UNC basketball revels in big blue glory once again.
In fact, McCants claims that not only did these “helping hands” write all of their papers they got some nice “perks” in return. Basketball tickets, autographed memorabilia, locker-room access. Everybody wins!
Look, cheating has been around for as long as organized sports. It didn’t just start with the notorious Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919 nor will it end with these most recent cheating allegations by Mr. McCants.
And it’s hard to believe Ms. Willingham is being anything but honest when she claims that the NCAA knew and continues to know that cheating to support top money-making “student-athletes” is “systemic” and that “they” (NCAA) don’t really want to talk to folks like Willingham because as she puts it “she knows too much and is more than willing (ham) to talk publicly.”
Okay. fair enough. But “systemic”?
Has “student-athlete” really become synonymous for cheat or our contemporary urban or suburban (depending on the location of the school) myth?
I remember years ago, eons perhaps, being approached by an athlete on the basketball team at my undergraduate school (same dorm) for “help” on an upcoming test. We were both in a required psychology class with about 125 other students. His plan was simple. He would sit next to me and I would be “careless” with my answer sheet. He’d copy enough to get at least a “C” and no one the wiser. I’m no angel but it was more insulting than anything. I avoided him like the plague on the day of the exam and then dealt with being ostracized for a week or two for not being a “team player.”
I found out later he dropped the course and got “tutoring” or something of that nature and kept his eligibility. Good for him. Lessons learned all around.
Just maybe not at UNC. Or for that matter, any big-time or wanna-be big time sports program that stands to lose millions in revenue over something as trivial as actually having their athletes get an education or the old-fashioned “earn” their degree.
UNC today. Penn State yesterday. (fill-in-the-blank) big-time school tomorrow.
Results. Revenue. Rewards.
To paraphrase Allen Iverson, grades, are we really talking about grades? grades?
And the illusion, the myth that is becoming student-athletics, especially for the high money making programs (predominantly. basketball and football) will continue to be carefully and often surreptitiously crafted, coveted and covered-up because there is simply too much money at stake. And well, if Rashad McCants and all those in his position get lots of caring, “helping-hands” so he can get a joke of a transcript and keep “generating revenue” for the school as he puts it, for all those “real” students than really, who or what is this system hurting?
Ms. Willingham says many of those she “tutored” couldn’t even read or write at a third grade level. Maybe we are hurting those kids.
Coach Roy Williams says he is in “disbelief” and has “no recollection” of such events as described by McCants.
Maybe like the NCAA he has simply become adept at knowing what questions to not ask and when to look the other way.
Maybe we’ve all become too good at living with the bad of our sports programs in America so we can all enjoy the good.
Maybe we need to stop looking the other way.