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Academic Ethics And College Sports

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Autor:  anton  02 July 2011
Tags:  Academic,  Ethics,  College,  Sports
Words: 1829   |   Pages: 8
Views: 464

Over the past 40 years, college athletics has gone beyond a localized fan base to the realm of big business. As schools work to compete with one another not only in the game itself, but with obtaining and maintaining the best recruiting prospects, ethical academic behavior has become suspect in many of the major programs throughout the country.

According Executive Director Tim Dodd of the Center for Academic Integrity based at Duke University, nearly 70% of undergraduate students admitted to have cheated at least once during their academic career. An alarming 25% admit to being academically dishonest habitually (five times or more). Shockingly, these incidents provide passing grades in order to attain a degree. What does that say for the student’s professional credibility? It is very apparent where his or her personal integrity stands (Pope, 2007). Student athletes are no exception to this. Who is responsible for this “jock” stereotype that these athletes carry? Should it be the system that has encouraged them to work hard on the athletic students who turned in the assignment beyond its due date had a 10-percent reduction court or field and yet disregard grades? For example, basketball stars at a private four-year college in Chicago, IL were given an extension on a class project with no penalties while non-each day it was late. The unfair treatment went beyond written work. Attendance also contributed to students overall grade, but student athletes who barely attended classes and rarely turned assignments in on time, had higher GPAs than pupils that met the college’s written academic requirements.

Another consideration that can adversely affect student athletes is his or her background. A significant amount of at-risk and minority students are geared towards sports as extracurricular pastimes as opposed to being in the street and getting into trouble. These students are already at an academic disadvantage in comparison to well funded communities where the schools have sufficient books, caring staff, and additional resources to contribute to a student’s success (Scott, 2003). Where does altering their curriculum benefit them? When post secondary institutions recruit athletes, academics are not pushed. Prestige and financial gains are highlighted.

What can be taught to these student victims? The repercussions to cheating through school will not catch up with them until they are out of school or done with athletics. What does the school lose from holding these students back? Nothing! These students generate revenue, peak fan interest, and glorify the school’s name to the public. Over the top, the mess seems unstoppable, but when unethical academic behavior is reported such as the cases at Florida State University and the University of Minnesota the academic dilemma unravels and the schools lose a great deal more than money: they mutilate their reputations.

In 2007 36 Florida State University football players were deemed ineligible for the Music City Bowl game versus Kentucky due to academic cheating. According to USA Today, when a University employed tutor gave the answers to an exam for an online history class that allowed the athletes to pass the test (Kallestad, 2007). This unethical behavior not only had an impact on the students, but also on the university. With the loss of the football bowl game came a loss of revenue for the college. Scandals of this nature greatly impact the recruiting process for future years as well.

The scandal also tarnished the reputation of students who do not cheat and the degree from that school is less valuable on the job market. Jeff Hayes from the Sporting News summarized the scandal in the following ways:

• “One or two or three players committing academic fraud happens all the time in college football. But 36 -- thirty-six -- players is systemic and a clear indication of zero leadership” (Hayes, 2007).

• “The foundation of FSU's athletic program -- its once elite football team -- is swirling in the drain. And Wetherell (FSU President) has no one to blame but himself” (Hayes, 2007).

• “Wetherell is no better than the 36 players accused of academic fraud. Players don’t fear the ramifications of cheating and getting caught. Wetherell doesn’t fear the ramifications of ignoring the obvious downward trend of the football program” (Hayes, 2007).

Another example of loose ethics surrounding an athletic program revolves around the University of Minnesota. This cheating scandal, much like the incident at Florida State, was far reaching within the university’s athletic program, in this case, the University of Minnesota basketball program. Unlike Florida State opprobrium however, the coaching staff at the University of Minnesota were directly involved, including both knowledge of what was going on and direct involvement and encouragement of student athletes to cheat. In March of 1999, local journalists in St. Paul, MN broke a story which involved an academic tutor and the University of Minnesota men’s basketball team. According to the story in St. Paul Pioneer Press, tutor Jan Gangelhoff claimed to have written more than 400 papers for the University of Minnesota basketball players from 1993-1998 (MPR, Timeline,1999). As the story broke, further instances of academic fraud surfaced when several other tutors and academic counselors admitted that they had done coursework for the university’s basketball players, and in some instances, fixed grades in order to keep basketball players eligible.

The scandal did not just stop with the athletic departments within the University of Minnesota. As the university initiated a further investigation, it came to light that head coach Clem Haskins had paid Gangelhoff $3,000 for her work on student athlete’s papers, thus putting him directly in the middle as a knowledgeable and willing participant (MPR, Timeline, 1999). The university’s actions, as the investigation progressed, were swift and decisive. The players involved were made ineligible for the 1999 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and Coach Haskins was dismissed from his position as head coach. As the university attempted to mitigate the losses caused, the damage was already done. Beyond the shame and embarrassment thrown upon the university, the NCAA imposed sanctions against the school, including four years of probation for its athletic programs and the loss of scholarships (MPR, Timeline, 1999). Such sanctions caused further trouble for the university as it means an overall loss of revenue and places athletic programs in “rebuilding mode,” placing them “behind the 8-ball” when it comes to athletic competition.

This example of academic dishonesty shows what such a scandal can do to a university and its students. Obviously the players and coaches involved were disciplined accordingly, but future players and coaches are punished for the actions of several dishonest people. Furthermore, the University of Minnesota found itself mired in legal action as it attempted to acquire the $1.5 million contract buyout back from Coach Haskins (Wilcoxen, 1999), dragging the university’s name through the mud even further. As the business of college athletics grow bigger and bigger, and recruiting for major universities becomes more competitive, the years of sanctions, and in turn the lost revenue, put a stranglehold on any university and make recovering from such dishonesty a difficult task indeed.

Amongst these stories of lies and deceit, there’s good news. Lost in all the negative articles and headlines are the positive collegiate programs, coaches, institutions, and student-athletes that excel in the academic arena. Many institutions are incorporating mission statements or code of conduct guidelines to serve as their compass in the decision making process. The Ivy League’s eight colleges and universities graduation rate is near perfect for student-athletes. In Gary Brown’s discussion with Ivy League director Jeff Orleans, Orleans surmises that “our students not only excel academically, but in every other way as well” (Brown, 2007). The league’s admission standards remain high while other institutions are lowering their requirements. The Ivy League’s admission standards and rules are there to ensure student-athletes are in a real position to succeed. As author Gary Brown discusses, “coaches in the Ivy league want their student-athletes to graduate able to �go pro’ in whatever non-athletic field they’re going to choose” (Brown, 2007). Student-athletes are graduating today. In fact, more African American student-athletes are graduating from college, and at a higher rate than non athletes. According to a study by the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport at the University of Central Florida, “the rate increased from 35% in 1984 to 52%” present day (Simon, 2007).

High academic standards can often be contributed to the coaching staff. Coach Bobby Knight is arguably the best basketball coach in Div 1. He has over 890 career wins and over 28 NCAA tournament appearances. Coach Knight is most recognized for his high emotions and on-court out-bursts, but what doesn’t make the headlines is coach Knight is foremost an educator. As discussed on CBS College Sports, “All but four of his 4-year players completed degrees, a ratio of 98%.” (CBS, Red Raider). This statistic, as well as Coach Knight’s propensity as both coach and mentor, has separated him as one of the best coach-educators in the country. As a result of this success, many schools look to Coach Knight for guidance when it comes to academic reform and success. Coach Knight has shown, time and time again, that it is possible for major college programs to be successful in both athletics and academics

Despite setbacks and scandals, universities can strive to maintain the highest standards of ethics for student-athletes. In order to combat unethical academic behavior, it is important that schools adopt and promote “no tolerance” policies when it comes to cheating. Additionally, if the school, including coaches and professors, become more involved with the student-athlete’s education process, perhaps the need or desire to cheat would become less prevalent. Lastly, it is imperative that every University hold all students to the same education standard, regardless of his or her status. As Bobby Knight has illustrated, it is indeed possible to maintain a high level of academic excellence, even in sports.


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Minnesota Public Radio. Retrieved March 22, 2008 from

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