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Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Updated: August 9, 10:25 AM ET
Get a taste of this NCAA baloney

By Dana O'Neil
ESPN.com

The University of North Carolina has essentially admitted that dozens of courses taught by African-American studies professor Julius Nyang'oro were, to use non-academic parlance, baloney.

The school has not argued that athletes made up a high percentage of the students enrolled in those baloney courses.

Going a step further, a report engineered by a faculty committee concluded -- though not yet fully endorsed by the university -- that academic counselors assigned to specific teams perhaps pushed athletes to those baloney classes.

And the NCAA apparently has no jurisdiction in this matter.

Which is why, dear folks in Indianapolis, people just don't get you sometimes.

It would seem to the layman that the intersection of athletics and academic dishonesty is exactly the right spot for the NCAA to step in.

Except, as of right now, there is no indication that the NCAA will revisit or re-examine the penalties it has already inflicted on UNC and its football team for violations related to improper benefits and academic misconduct involving a tutor.

The reason: The athletes did the baloney work in the baloney courses, and so long as the baloney courses weren't balonified solely for the benefit of athletes -- in other words, they were equal-opportunity baloney classes made available to everyone at North Carolina -- it's not an NCAA problem.

In NCAA parlance, they call it involving the athletic nexus.

In layman's terms, it's baloney.

The NCAA has no problem telling high schools -- where it has zero jurisdiction -- what qualifies as a core course and what doesn't. It has no problem telling high school athletes whether their coursework is legitimate enough to pass the NCAA eligibility smell test or is subject to review.

Yet when it comes to the legitimacy of classwork done on a college campus, where technically the NC(as in collegiate)AA has some sway, it lets the individual institutions police themselves.

That is not only hypocritical; it is illogical.

No doubt there are rogue high schools or suspect administrators who conjure up phony courses or suspect grades for high-profile athletes, but who is more likely to bend the academic rules? A high school, which has nothing to gain if a student goes on to a full scholarship? Or a college, which has plenty to lose if a top athlete isn't able to compete?

This particular case is about North Carolina, but the greater issue isn't. Essentially, the hook in this case is that there is no proof that a coach or athletic department official coerced Nyang'oro to make lunch meat out of his curriculum for the benefit of the athletes enrolled.

But this isn't just about targeting easy classes or less challenging majors. There isn't a college student alive who couldn't tell you where to find the easier A's on his or her campus (late 1980s/early 1990s in State College, Pa., you went with Astronomy 101 or Geology 101. We even called it "Rocks for Jocks").

Nor is this entirely the same as the 2004 case against Auburn, where 18 members of the football team took 97 hours of independent study from the same sociology professor, or the 2008 Ann Arbor News discovery that 85 percent of a certain psychology professor's courses were filled by athletes at the University of Michigan.

Pushing athletes to particular majors or even classes -- clustering, if you will -- while perhaps distasteful, isn't in and of itself fraudulent. Pushing athletes to classes that were deemed "aberrant" by an internal university probe due to grade changes and forgeries is an entirely different matter.

These weren't easy courses. They weren't courses at all. More like glorified babysitting hours.

Were these high school athletes and not Tar Heels, the NCAA and its eligibility center folks would have absolutely no problem saying these courses were clearly bogus and, therefore, not good enough to meet its standards. Whether a high school coach, athletic director or principal coerced a teacher would be irrelevant. Questionable flag plus bad teacher equals red flag, which would mean, in all likelihood, an uncleared stamp of disapproval.

So why don't the same rules apply once a kid is on campus? Why can the NCAA question the merit of a high school it may never have visited, yet tosses up its hands helplessly when it comes to its "member institutions"?

It should, by all accounts, go to the exact core of what the NCAA purports to be about in its endless effort to promote student-athletes. Most people can't get their knickers in a twist over a coach making too many phone calls to a prospect or buying a recruit a cheesesteak.

"Aberrant" courses? That's an NCAA violation most people can get behind.