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00000176-770f-dc2f-ad76-7f0fad990000Monday at 5:44 pmEmail Sports at Large

Should A College Coach Get A Bonus If The Athlete Does Well - In The Classroom?

Chris Hsia via flickr

You’d have to go back more than 100 years ago to a time when the atmosphere around college sports in this country was more toxic than they are today.

Back then, President Teddy Roosevelt called the heads of major American colleges into the Oval Office and ordered them to clean up their games or watch them be eliminated. The result of Roosevelt’s warning was the formation of the NCAA, which, in those days, was charged with keeping players alive.

Today’s NCAA must cope with health and safety issues, to be sure, but is also tasked with ensuring that the values of amateurism are upheld, no matter how quaint an idea that might be in 2014. One might also think that a body that is responsible for governing college athletics should do whatever it takes to enforce the concept that the young people who excel at games spend time in classrooms. That concept took a hit last week when a scandal involving alleged massive academic fraud was exposed, as a report indicated that a large number of students had been taking a fictitious course for more than 18 years.

A former athletic department compliance officer told CBS that this scandal is the largest and most egregious case of academic fraud in NCAA history. That schools have twisted academic rules over the years to keep players eligible is not a surprise. However, where this particular scandal unfolded is as big a shock as the scope of the alleged wrongdoing.

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is at the top of virtually any list of prestigious schools in terms of both academic and athletic excellence. Athletes at UNC-Chapel Hill are expected to win titles on the field AND to perform in the classroom. Yet, the school’s own investigation revealed that roughly 1,500 student-athletes had taken a sham course in the African-American studies department during an 18-year period. The school had attempted to head off an NCAA investigation for three years by maintaining that the fraud was committed by athletes and students alike. However, North Carolina’s investigation revealed that nearly half the students involved in the scam were athletes.

The NCAA will try to determine how many athletes would have been academically ineligible if not for the sham courses, then determine how best to punish North Carolina. The sanctions are likely to include scholarship reductions, monetary fines and the vacating of national championships. When it comes, the punishment could cripple the school for years to come. 

As the North Carolina scandal was unfolding, the board of regents of the University System of Maryland moved in a completely opposite direction.

As the North Carolina scandal was unfolding, the board of regents of The University System of Maryland moved in a completely opposite direction. The regents voted unanimously Friday to tie bonuses awarded to coaches and athletic directors at Towson, Coppin, UMBC and the flagship school at College Park, to the academic performance of student-athletes. Those bonuses, which, in some cases, are worth into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, are typically awarded solely on the basis of how athletes perform on the field not in the classroom.

Maryland is believed to be the first state to tie academic and athletic performance in this manner, but, in the wake of what’s happening in Chapel Hill, it won’t be the last.