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NCAA Reforms

The NCAA last week quietly dropped a recommended reform that would have given the association more authority to handle the kind of academic misconduct that left dozens of athletes at UNC-Chapel Hill with subpar educations. Two NCAA panels, including one led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, had called for the NCAA to reform a rule that lets member schools make the call on what constitutes academic fraud on their campuses. UNC cited that rule to escape NCAA sanctions by contending classes that never met and had provided high grades for term papers regardless of quality were legitimate.

That outcome in October 2017 drew sustained national scorn. Months later, the NCAA formed an academic integrity working group that recommended the NCAA create a bylaw that expanded its infractions committee's reach for egregious academic misconduct cases. But at a meeting last week, the NCAA's board of directors for the Division I schools that include big-money conferences such as the ACC and SEC decided not to pursue the reform. That decision wasn't included in an NCAA news release Wednesday that announced the board "seeks to shore up academic integrity rules." The News & Observer learned the proposed reform had been dumped after obtaining a report from the NCAA that was prepared in advance of the meeting. The report, by the Division I Presidential Forum, said most member schools weren't enthused about giving the NCAA that kind of authority over academics.

"The concept was to add an overarching bylaw that would capture instances of systemic, willful disregard for academic integrity as it pertains to student-athlete eligibility and/or fair competition," the report said. "Feedback from the membership on this idea indicated some but not significant support. Comments trended toward concern that such a provision would be unnecessary and that recent changes in the infractions process will capture systemic academic malfeasance. As such, the (forum's) Steering Committee decided not to submit the concept at this time." The committee said it would "retain" the proposed bylaw as an "option in the future" if academic misconduct persists. Michelle Hosick, an NCAA spokeswoman, confirmed the Division I board of directors also chose not to back the proposed bylaw. She said NCAA officials had no further comment.