The number that really jumps off the page in this Inside Higher Education report on major NCAA violations is this one:
The review finds that 53 of the 120 universities in the NCAA’s top competitive level, the Football Bowl Subdivision, were found by the NCAA's Division I Committee on Infractions to have committed major rules violations from 2001 to 2010. That number appears to have held largely constant from the previous two decades, but the 2000s show that the number of colleges that committed serious violations of the association’s academic rules nearly doubled, to 15 from 8 in the 1990s.For all the NCAA crackdowns, burgeoning compliance departments, and ever-expanding regulations and rules, "serious violations" are as prevalent in major college sports as ever.
That's the depressing news. But as the bulk of the report endeavors to show that there's positive news, too: violations involving widespread academic fraud and pay-for-play transgressions are down, replaced in the numbers by problems like excessive phone contact. (It's also worth noting that the "53" number includes allegations across all athletics programs, not just football.)
The problem, as noted by former Committee on Infraction member Gene Marsh, is that that increased compliance is coming at a cost:
“We’re admitting more people who really don't belong there, and spending millions on academic support to keep them there,” [Marsh] said ... And while most sports officials remain “focused on educational progress for students for their own sake,” the potential penalties for colleges whose athletes don’t succeed academically “means you’re going to get more people getting cute, more professors who lose their will and their ethics.”When observers of college football discuss the increasing financial gap between the sport's haves and have-nots, it's typically in terms of coaching salaries, new facilities, recruiting budgets, etc. But the gap is just as wide -- and maybe wider -- when it comes to compliance and academic performance. The teams at the bottom of FBS often don't have the millions to spend on "academic support to keep them there"--a major reason many of the teams that have gotten dinged by the APR have been on the lower rungs of D-I.
For the time being, despite the (Jerry Tarkanian- espoused ) conventional wisdom that the NCAA hammers smaller programs while looking the other way on the violations of larger ones, the upper echelons of college athletics were found guilty just as often as the lower ones during the Aughts. ("More universities in the Big Ten Conference [eight] were punished for major violations than in any other league," the report notes.) But with compliance coming at a steeper and steeper cost and the APR-induced punishment for academic failings growing steeper and steeper, it will be worth watching to see if this decade is defined by a brighter and brighter NCAA spotlight on the programs that won't be able to afford to stay out of it.