College basketball can be entertaining on TV and profitable for schools that play it at a high level. It provides opportunity for players, walk-on or scholarshipped. It can raise students’ spirits on campus and pry open the wallets of alumni.
We’re not here today to tamp down enjoyment, just to remind about the river of sleaze that has run beneath the sport since Dr. Naismith blew up the first ball. The latest incident involves Southern Miss and its former coach, Donnie Tyndall. From Inside Higher Ed: “Showing how the pressures of Division I college athletics can breed academic fraud far beyond the walls of a single campus, the university’s basketball staff completed more than 100 assignments in online courses for recruits attending two-year institutions.”
Dissecting: Southern Miss administrators were not going to allow Tyndall to bring in JUCO players who didn’t have a diploma or enough transferrable credits. So he sent assistants on the road to game the system. Since having the athletes go to class and learn was out of the question, online courses were the ticket. In some cases, Southern Miss paid for those courses. The trail of metadata is fascinating. One athlete in Florida supposedly submitted 30 psychology assignments from Jamaica. One assignment was completed by a graduate assistant’s mother.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions threw the book at Southern Miss. Will it similarly cripple North Carolina’s famed basketball program, under a similar investigation? Likely not. CBS would pitch a fit. From Eleanor Myers, a Temple law professor who oversaw the Southern Miss case: “We’ve been focused very much on academic fraud over the last year. But it’s hard for me to say if it’s on the rise.”
It’s not on the rise. It’s always been there, because coaches who lose too many games get fired.