The head of NCAA enforcement says academic misconduct is on the rise in college athletics and his department is currently handling 20 open investigations.
Vice president of enforcement Jon Duncan said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press the cases involve both prospective and incoming athletes trying to become eligible for college competition, and enrolled athletes receiving impermissible assistance from university and athletic department personnel.
Eighteen of the cases involve Division I schools, though NCAA policies preclude Duncan from revealing which programs are under investigation.
North Carolina has been the focus of the NCAA’s most high-profile infractions case involving academics. Last year an independent investigator found that hundreds of Tar Heels athletes over nearly two decades were steered toward sham classes that gave out high grades for little work.
Duncan said reasons for the uptick are impossible to pinpoint, but he speculated potential contributors are raised academic standards for athletes and recent reforms that tie academic performance to a team’s postseason eligibility.
More digital and online courses “creates opportunities for mischievous behavior,” Duncan said. Though electronic fingerprints and digital trails can also aide in investigations.
Also, cheating seems to be more common campus-wide, not just in the athletic department, Duncan said.
“None of what’s happened here has surprised us,” said Duncan, who took over enforcement in 2013. “In fact, it’s why we created the academic integrity unit in 2013, because we saw this on the horizon and we wanted to be in a position to deal with it proactive rather than reacting to it. Whatever the drivers were.”
Academic misconduct investigations can be challenging because not all cheating by a student-athlete breaks NCAA rules.
Notre Dame had four football players suspended all of last season because of academic misconduct. The school needed to report the incident to the NCAA, though ultimately it was a violation of the university’s honor code that cost the players the season.
This article was republished with permission from the original publisher, Bozeman Daily Chronicle.