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The Old College Try: How Blacks Stay Eligible For College Sports

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Full, Original Article First Appeared at American Renaissance

In the summer of 2010, the University of North Carolina (UNC) athletic department was caught up in a scandal. Many basketball and football players were found to have taken phony courses and to have been given high grades for papers they did not write and classes they did not attend. This had been going on for over a decade, and involved thousands of players. Cheated, by Jay Smith, a professor of history at UNC, and Mary Willingham, a UNC academic advisor and whistle-blower in the scandal, is a full account of this sordid tale of academic fraud.

The authors provide an abundance of evidence for bogus independent-study classes, inflated grades, plagiarized work, and an administration that deliberately ignored obvious fraud. All the cheaters were apparently black athletes, and many black professors were involved, but the athletes are portrayed as victims rather than beneficiaries of this fraud.

Students or athletes?

The problem of lowering academic standards to recruit athletes goes back many years. In 1939, University of Chicago President Robert Maynard Hutchins chose to eliminate the school’s football program rather than relax standards. “To be successful, one must cheat. Everyone is cheating, and I refuse to cheat,” he explained. This was when college athletes were nearly all white, and the problem has only gotten worse.

Robert Maynard Hutchins

In 1986, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) enacted Proposition 48, which set minimum academic standards for athletic eligibility. A minimum score of 700 out of 1,400 on the SAT and a 2.0 grade-point average hardly seem demanding, but a number of coaches and black race activists decried the measures as discriminatory. And, indeed, a 1988 report found that 78 percent of the athletes who could not meet these requirements were black. Coaches quickly learned how to get around these minimum standards. This book shows how.

The center of the UNC scandal was the African and Afro-American Studies Department (AFRI/AFAM), and the chairman of the department, Julius Nyang’oro, an immigrant from Tanzania, was at the heart of the fraud.

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