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Feb. 16: The Los Angeles Times reported that several former athletes at UCLA had been credited with attending a course at Los Angeles Valley College that they hadn't actually attended.
March 10: The L.A. Times reported that USC's Billy Mullins, the NCAA 400-meter champion in 1978, had been accepted as a transfer student at Southern Cal in the spring of 1978 largely on the basis of a transcript that included 28 credits he purportedly had received in the fall of 1977 from four different community colleges located in the Los Angeles area—Pasadena, Los Angeles, West Los Angeles and Rio Hondo. According to the Times, Mullins' schedule would have required that he be at Rio Hondo at 8 a.m. for Economics 1A, 20 miles away at Pasadena at 9 a.m. for Chemistry 22, and back at Rio Hondo at 10 a.m. for Literature 1B.
April 30: The University of Southern California announced that it had uncovered in the records of a former student, a member of the track team, 10 units transferred from California Lutheran College in 1978 that appeared to be fraudulent. The discovery was made in the course of a check, ordered by the Pac-10, of all transfer credits received from 19 institutions listed by the conference as "suspect." USC has also been unable to verify credits received by the same student from Compton College.
Appalling as the public record is, the current state of the so-called student-athlete becomes nothing short of unconscionable when academe's heavily fortified wall of "privacy" is breached. Here, for example, is signed, written testimony given to NCAA investigators by athletes enrolled in institutions of higher learning: "I think he [a coach] did visied me a school one.... Since I have been at [the school], Coach [name deleted] have not give me any money, period. But he have lend me five to tin dollars but I have paid it back to." And, "Coach [name deleted] give me a 5 or 6 dr. to do my clothis with but other than that he have not give me any money."
For as long as intercollegiate sports have been taken seriously in the U.S., the image of the "dumb jock" has endured. In caricature, he is not an altogether unappealing figure: the fullback whose neck is a size larger than the best grade he has ever received in math class; the kid with a rampant pituitary gland who calmly dribbles behind his back but breaks into a cold sweat at the prospect of diagramming a simple sentence. This was always an exaggerated image, one that was more playfully than seriously advanced.
The "dumb jock" has now come into full flower in the American educational system. He is fast becoming a national catastrophe. He is already a national disgrace. About the only good thing one can say about him is that his blossoming has inadvertently exposed the larger failures of the educational process.
What happened? Why is it different after all these years?
It is different because the educational system itself is in chaos, its spirit preoccupied, its standards blunted to a point where almost anything that passes for curricula is permissible. High schools—many of them—do not educate; they graduate. Junior colleges—many of them—have such meager academic requirements that they are fertile ground for any angling coach who feels the need to do some academic cheating to keep his players eligible. The sins of the high schools and J.C.s are visited on the major colleges, where the buck stops.
It is different because declining enrollments and inflating costs have made the possibility that the bucks will stop a real one on some campuses. Thus, schools become susceptible to the rationale that a little athletic malfeasance is okay in the cause of academic survival. They have seen that the excesses of a few coaches, a few administrators and a few boosters at other schools have yielded success—in direct terms by selling seats and generating revenues through TV exposure, in indirect terms by making those schools more visible to potential students.