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Saturday, June 03, 2006
Possible Lawsuit Brewing Against NCAA Over "Diploma Mills"

USA Today reports that an NCAA investigation has uncovered cases of abuse and fraud in academic standards at some non-public, non-traditional high schools and that the NCAA will begin releasing the names of the schools from which it will no longer accept grade transcripts of athletes, which could prevent them from accepting college scholarships ("NCAA uncovers academic fraud at some non-public schools"). The NCAA's investigation was accelerated when it was discovered that a Miami correspondence school that had no classes or instructors and operated almost without supervision, was allegedly offering diplomas for $399.

But according to Don Jackson, an attorney representing some of the schools under investigation, most of the schools are church-affiliated, which would make the NCAA's intrusion an unconstitutional violation of church-state separation. It is Jackson's position that the NCAA does not have legal authority to dictate standards for schools that already operate under state sanction. He indicated that a number of schools have already contacted his law firm about possibly suing the NCAA: "In a really strange way, this degenerates into a states rights issue, an issue involving separation of church and state, and I can't imagine families of these players and the schools themselves not collectively filing lawsuits against the NCAA over these issues."

The NCAA is most likely going to win this battle. While a constitutional violation here is highly suspect, the merits of such a claim would most likely not be addressed because the U.S. Supreme Court in Tarkanian v. NCAA held that the NCAA is not a state actor when it establishes rules and regulations pertaining to academic standards to be followed by its member schools:

"UNLV retained the authority to withdraw from the NCAA and establish its own standards. The university alternatively could have stayed in the Association and worked through the Association's legislative process to amend rules or standards it deemed harsh, unfair, or unwieldy. Neither UNLV's decision to adopt the NCAA's standards nor its minor role in their formulation is a sufficient reason for concluding that the NCAA was acting under color of Nevada law when it promulgated standards governing athlete recruitment, eligibility, and academic performance."


Wasn't there a NYTimes article on this subject a few months back? Is the NCAA only looking into this stuff because the public has some hard facts on it now?

Blogger The Fan's Attic -- 6/03/2006 3:01 PM  

The NCAA has to maintain the quality of its product because if fans/advertisers know that the product is not a truthful, moral, or whatever adjective you want to throw in there then its isn't going to sell as well. The NCAA doesn't want its product to become perceived like professional sports, which is that it is all about the money. Ignoring this issue that has become public knowledge would just prove that NCAA only cares about the profit margin.

Anonymous Sports Overload -- 6/03/2006 6:51 PM  

Both good points. I think the NY Times article about the school in Miami is what really brought the issue to the spotlight and provided the spark for the NCAA to launch the investigation. But according to the NCAA, they have been "concerned" about the issue for several years.

Blogger Rick Karcher -- 6/03/2006 9:00 PM  

For the NCAA, being "concerned" is like me not sure what movie to rent at blockbuster or what shirt to wear on my date coming up. I'm sure it hasn't been causing anyone on the NCAA committee to lose much sleep. If the media puts pressure on the NCAA to act then it becomes a completely different issue.

Anonymous Sports Overload -- 6/04/2006 11:31 PM  

One wonders not only of diploma mills that are used to make students eligible immediately out of high school, but also of some community colleges that take in ineligible athletes for 1 or 2 years during which time the athlete's scholarly record is rehabilitated. Then the student can likely skimp through 1 or 2 more years at a 4-year institution before some again, and inevitably, become academically ineligible and/or don't graduate.

Anonymous Anonymous -- 7/07/2006 4:26 PM  

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