How could there be no responsive records? The Drake Group requested videoskype or Facetime interviews with the provosts from the 17 universities that said there were no responsive records. None would agree to be interviewed. The interview offer stands, not only to those provosts but also to all provosts in the ACC, Big 10, Big 12, PAC 12 and SEC conferences. One possible reason for the lack of records from the chief academic officer is how universities have delegated the responsibility of academic oversight when it comes to college athletics. The University of Arizona tells the Drake Group the president of the university “has delegated all of the university’s athletic compliance responsibilities to the Office of General Counsel.”

The University of Kentucky says the Drake Group has a “fundamental misunderstanding” of how universities monitor athletic integrity. UK says that responsibility falls not to the provost but to the Faculty Athletic Representative.

Gerald Gurney at the University of Oklahoma strongly disagrees. Dr. Gurney is the past president of the Drake Group and the co-author of Unwinding Madness: What Went Wrong With College Sports and How to Fix It. He has spent a career analyzing the conflicts and problems caused by the intersection of academics and big-money sports. He calls Faculty Athletic Representatives “anything but the representatives of the faculty.”

Most (80%), says Gurney, are presidential appointees who are afraid to make waves. Gurney describes Faculty Athletic Representatives as “guardians of the interests of the athletic department.”

The door to it all is what Gurney describes as the “original sin of intercollegiate athletics.” It all starts, says Gurney, with admissions. Universities have the college entrance exam scores of all incoming athletes, and Gurney cautions any athletes having an ACT English/Verbal score less than 17 will have precisely what Mary Willingham witnessed first hand: college students who can’t read college level material. The result is obvious. Says Gurney, “if you can’t read, you cannot be successful, it’s not possible, you (the student athlete) can’t make up that deficiency.” Gurney says the combination of low reading ability, college classes and the demand for athletes to stay eligible is the perfect recipe for academic fraud. North Carolina State University provided the number of men’s basketball and football players admitted in the last five years who had an ACT test score less than 17.

The Drake Group did not request budgets. But it appears that at Division I universities, the department spending more resources on academic support than any other is the athletic department. The University of Florida sent the Drake Group more than 5,000 pages of material. The University of Florida says it provides student athletes more than 21,000 hours of tutoring. It also collects data on all courses taken, all grades and all grade changes in daily updated databases.

North Carolina State is proud of the academic support it provides athletes saying, “We believe NC State is a national model for academic integrity and support relating to student-athletes.” Its organization chart shows just how many people are dedicated to athletic academic support.

Of those few universities responding to the Drake Group, there were some interesting suggestions. At the University of Kansas, the Academic Review Committee recommends getting the names of every student athlete “who received a grade change to retain eligibility.”

At Texas Tech, a consulting group hired to examine the athletic program recommends buying better quality cameras for the video-monitored study area in order to check for academic misconduct.

With scores of majors and hundreds of classes, how is it possible that so many athletes end up in the same major? Gerald Gurney says it’s by design, that athletes in the money-sports (football and basketball) get funneled into the “majors of least resistance,” adding that athletes get steered to friendly courses with friendly professors for one reason: “to keep them eligible.”

That may possibly explain what a law firm hired to examine the athletic program at the University of Texas found. Seventy-eight per cent of baseball student athletes, 73% of men’s basketball players and 71% who identified themselves as Black or African American were all enrolled in the college of education.


Both the University of Iowa and Iowa State appear to be keeping close watch. Iowa State monitors all courses, all grades, keeps a spreadsheet of all possible instances of academic fraud and prohibits contact between coaches and academic professors.

In it’s examination of the athletic student services program at University of Texas - Austin, the Jackson Lewis law firm pinpoints the problem big-money sports has brought to Division I universities.

“Nationally, the efforts to recruit top student-athletes all too often initiates student athletes arriving on campus academically underprepared for the rigors of college coursework. This, in turn, results in a bigger strain on resources available to support the academic demands of the student-athlete population. Student-athletes who are admitted below the regular admission standards are challenged to keep pace with their regularly admitted classmates.”

As both Mary Willingham and Gerald Gurney have noted, Division I universities actively recruit and admit student athletes who aren’t academically capable of doing college level work, a point of exasperation for both. “Nobody,” says Gurney, “wants to talk about it, even tenured professors just don’t want to deal with it.”

This is happening at a time of record student debt. Despite multimillion dollar broadcast contracts, only a handful of athletic programs make a profit. Most lose millions every year, and many are substantially funded by fees charged to the academic students. Why should academic students incurring huge debt to attend college be paying to fund scholarships going to athletes who can’t read above grade-school level?

What Can YOU do?

If you’re concerned about academic integrity in college athletics, the Drake Group suggests asking the following questions to Division 1 University presidents, to the education committee members in your state legislature and to your state’s governor.

- What is the purpose of a university? Everywhere else in the world, the primary purpose of a university is education. Why in the United States is the highest paid public employee in state after state either a college football coach or a college basketball coach? Are Division I universities simply cost-free training grounds for the NBA and the NFL? Why is the athletic department spending more to provide academic study and support facilities and tutors to its athletes than any academic department provides for its students?

Should students who can only read at grade-school level or less be given full scholarships and admitted to a university so they can play football or basketball? Universities often make the argument they’re giving such students a chance. Would the men’s basketball coach recruit someone who’s 5’2”, can’t shoot, run or play defense for his basketball squad to “give him a chance?” Should university athletic departments be required to report each year the number of at-risk students admitted who’ve been given scholarships to come and play football or basketball?

Should there be line-item detail on the student bill so students and parents can see how much the student pays each semester to support athletics? Can you imagine getting a bill from your auto mechanic for $700 or a $1,000 with no breakdown of the costs? Should public universities be required to provide line-item detail to show where the money is going? In the computer age, that’s simple. The university knows precisely how it arrived at the total figure it’s charging the student. At many universities, the highest fee the student pays goes to fund the athletic department.

How is the chief academic officer, the university provost, checking for academic fraud and corruption in the athletic department? With all the alarm bells that have sounded about academic fraud in college athletics, if the provost is not checking, why not? How is the provost being held accountable?

Please let the Drake Group know what you’re finding

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© 2017 The Drake Group