this Aug. 26, 2010, file photo, then-North Carolina
chancellor Holden Thorp, center, listens as then-UNC
athletic director Dick Baddour, right, talks during a
news conference with then-UNC head coach Butch Davis,
left, about possible academic misconduct regaring the
college football program in Chapel Hill, N.C. Jon
Duncan, the head of NCAA enforcement. says academic
misconduct has been on the rise in college athletics
and his department is handling 20 open
The head of
NCAA enforcement says academic misconduct is on the rise in
college athletics and his department is currently handling
20 open investigations.
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
the cases involve Division I schools, though NCAA policy
precludes Duncan from revealing which programs are under
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. In the
last four months, Weber State football and Georgia swimming
have been sanctioned by the NCAA for academic misconduct
reasons for the uptick are difficult 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.
digital and online course work "creates opportunities
for mischievous behavior," Duncan said. Though
electronic fingerprints and digital trails can also aide in
cheating seems to be more common campus-wide, not just in
the athletic department, Duncan said.
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."
misconduct investigations can be challenging because not all
cheating by a student-athlete breaks NCAA rules.
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.
academic impropriety to become an NCAA violation at least
one of three factors must be involved:
Involvement by members of an institution or athletic
athlete is treated differently than the general student
Academic misconduct led to an award of credit that allowed
an athlete to compete when he or she would have otherwise
easy to talk about those different buckets and categories in
sort of scholarly, academic conversation, but they don't
come to us packaged and labeled as falling into and out of
those categories," Duncan said. "We have to spend
a lot of time, dedicate a lot of resources, look at a lot of
paper and perhaps conduct a number of interviews to
determine whether we're in one of those categories or
Virginia University director of compliance Keli Cunningham
said the challenge for those on campus comes in the
not like monitoring areas such as a prospect's visit to
campus where you can see an expense statement and know if
someone received a meal and shouldn't have or monitoring
phone calls where you can see a coach's phone bill and know
if he/she made too many phone calls," Cunningham said
in an email. "If a staff member works closely with a
student-athlete and that student-athlete receives a high
grade for the course, that doesn't mean that the staff
member acted unethically and triggered academic
Sulentic, who leads the NCAA's academic integrity unit, said
they are seeing two themes in the academic cases being
we're seeing are people who have an association with the
program, by people it could be anybody from a professor, a
campus adviser, a registrar, a teaching assistant, who has a
relationship with the athletic department or a particular
sports program and they use that relationship in an effort
to — and I'm using air quotes here — to help a
student-athlete engage in misconduct," she said.
scenario stems from coaches delivering directives to
coaching and support staff members about an athlete's
the coach will say, 'We need to get this student athlete
eligible.' Not telling them exactly what to do but saying we
need this young man or young women and some sort of academic
misconduct occurs," Sulentic said.
staff does not make NCAA bylaws though it can help guide
membership to where it wants to go with legislation.
has been going through a stage of deregulation as it tries
to simplify its bylaws, but that's not necessarily the case
when it comes to academics.
conversations that we have been in and that we have heard
have not been deregulatory in nature," Duncan said.
"They're just trying to find a way to distinguish
between what is an NCAA matter and what is not."