Inside College Hoops: Online courses continue to lead to academic fraud

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported earlier this year that the NCAA is investigating 20 university athletics programs for academic misconduct.

And we now know the number is at least 21.

That’s the result of Pacific acknowledging to CBS Sports that its men’s basketball program is being investigated for academic misconduct. Unsurprisingly, the root of the issue is online courses — specifically allegations that at least one Pacific assistant was doing online coursework for student-athletes, then instructing them to turn it in to remain eligible.

Clearly, if true, this is pretty egregious.

And it’s the latest bit of evidence that suggests the growing prevalence of online courses is leading to more academic misconduct — both inside and outside of college athletics. The NCAA’s case against SMU, like its case against Pacific, was connected to online work. And a source who serves as an academic advisor for student-athletes at a high-major school told CBS Sports he believes “the majority of academic dishonesty is tied to online-courses.”

“The system is set up for cheating,” he said. “The system invites it.”

Indeed, it does.

And for two reasons:

  1. Cheating via online courses is relatively easy.
  2. There’s an obvious and undeniable incentive to cheat.

Simply put … as long as head coaches are getting paid millions of dollars to win games, and assistants are making hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure players to help win those games, and universities are financially benefitting from successful football and basketball programs, and online courses are readily available and begging to be manipulated in an attempt to get or keep players eligible, well, what do you expect? Jonathan Duncan, the NCAA’s VP of enforcement, said last December that academic fraud across college athletics is an “epidemic.” Best I can tell, there’s no reason to think it’s changing.

SMU (USATSI)
The SMU Mustangs are the latest team to be penalized by the NCAA due to problems with online coursework. (USATSI)

NOTES FROM AROUND THE COUNTRY

BAYLOR BEARS Bears favorite in race for mid-year signee

Class of 2015 prospect Kobie Eubanks reportedly now has a qualifying SAT score and will soon pick a college and enroll, presumably, in December. Among those involved are Baylor, Texas A&M, Georgetown and Oregon, a source told CBS Sports. And another source who recruited Eubanks predicted the four-star wing will likely land at … Baylor.

“[Eubanks is] closest with [Baylor assistant] Jerome Tang,” the source said. “So I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t end up at Baylor.”

UAB BLAZERS Haase looking for consistency

Schools that return all five starters from a team that advanced in the NCAA Tournament typically land in preseason rankings. But that’s not happening for UAB.

Which makes sense, really.

Yes, the Blazers do return all five starters from that team that upset Iowa State in the Round of 64. That’s one way to frame it. But another way to frame it is that the Blazers return all five starters from a team that went just 16-15 in the regular season.

That was the record before UAB got hot and won the C-USA Tournament.

The Blazers finished the season 20-16.

“The entire season was probably not up to the level we wanted it to be, but we did end strong, and we had a great week in the conference tournament … and then in the NCAA Tournament,” UAB coach Jerod Haase said this week. “This year … we don’t won’t to have a great week. We want to have a great year.”

MIAMI HURRICANES UM’s success helping ticket sales

Miami officials announced this week that the school has already set a record for season-ticket sales, and that fewer than 800 season tickets remain available for this season.

“When we arrived at Miami, we were told it would be tough to sell out the BankUnited Center, and it would be hard to build a basketball fan base,” said Miami coach Jim Larrañaga, who is entering his fifth season at the school. “But in four short years, we have set all kinds of records with both sellout crowds and student attendance.”

This development is a testament to the program Larrañaga and his staff have built, and it’s proof that fans are excited about a team that’s ranked 21st in the CBS Sports preseason Top 25 (and one). Beyond that, though, it’s a reminder that good products are attractive — almost regardless of the location. And it’s why athletic directors would be wise to focus less on history and more on possibilities. There is very little history to suggest the Hurricanes should be good at men’s basketball and relevant in the Miami market. But they are. And that’s because the school made a smart hire and then gave Larrañaga the resources he needed to be successful in the ACC.

It really is as simple as that, sometimes.

GONZAGA BULLDOGS Big men will play big role this season

Mark Few‘s father-in-law was recently in town staying with the family, and one of the things he enjoys is watching old Gonzaga games that’ve been recorded. So one morning last week, that’s exactly what he was doing. And when Few walked in the living room and glanced at the television screen he saw Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell and Byron Wesley flying around the court in what ended up being a 91-75 victory over BYU.

“We had like one turnover in the first half and six for the game,” Few told me before acknowledging, yeah, there might not be too many Gonzaga games like that this season.

Why?

Because Pangos, Bell and Wesley are all gone.

So now Gonzaga is operating with a completely new backcourt.

“And we are turning the ball over so much with these guards that we have right now,” Few said. “They’re talented, explosivem, and they can make plays. But they don’t [take care of the ball like] Pangos or Bell or even Wesley. We’re missing that right now.”

But …

“The bigs are the real deal,” Few said, and that’s why the Zags are a consensus top-15 team even though they’re replacing three starters. Because the bigs — Kyle Wiltjer, Przemek Karnowski and Damantas Sabonis — are indeed the real deal.

Wiltjer is the CBS Sports Preseason National Player of the Year.

He averaged 16.8 points per game last season.

“And he’s going to score more this year,” Few said.

KANSAS JAYHAWKS KU may move exhibition game due to World Series

Kansas is scheduled to play an exhibition against Pittsburg State on Wednesday — and the Jayhawks will do that unless the Mets beat the Royals twice over the next three days.

Here’s the deal: Game 7 of the World Series is scheduled for Wednesday night in Kansas City, and KU officials don’t want fans in the state having to choose between attending an exhibition basketball game or possibly watching the Royals secure their first world title since 1985. And they don’t want to wait too late to make a call, one way or another. So if the World Series reaches Game 6, Kansas has already decided to move Wednesday night’s exhibition to Thursday night, meaning fans (and Pittsburg State) will know which day the Jayhawks are playing no later than late Sunday.

“We know that interest in this series is sky-high in this area,” said Kansas coach Bill Self. “Many of our Jayhawk fans will want to attend or watch Game 7 next Wednesday, if it goes that far, and we don’t want them to have to make a choice. We hope the Royals wrap it up in New York. But if they don’t we’ll be ready to move our game.”

FINAL THOUGHT

Ex-college coaches in NBA off to hot start

Not all college basketball fans follow the NBA, which is why some of you might not know that three recent college basketball coaches are off to nice starts this NBA season.

I am, of course, talking about Brad Stevens, Fred Hoiberg and Billy Donovan.

The former Butler, Iowa State and Florida coaches are, as I type, a combined 4-0. Hoiberg, now in his first season with the Chicago Bulls, already owns a win over LeBron James. Donovan, now in his first season with the Oklahoma City Thunder, already owns a win over Gregg Popovich. And Stevens, now in his third season with the Boston Celtics, is 1-0 and coming off of a trip to the Eastern Conference Playoffs. So one guy (Stevens) has long ago proved himself capable, and the other two (Hoiberg and Donovan) seem on their way to doing the same. And, in the process, they just might put an end to that ridiculous theory that “college coaches” can’t succeed in the NBA.

You remember that lame argument, don’t you?

Folks would point to John Calipari or Lon Kruger or any number of “college coaches” who didn’t fair well in the NBA and draw conclusions about an entire collection of humans, and it was always so stupid because, truth is, Calipari and Kruger mostly failed for the exact reason that Hoiberg and Donovan will succeed — because of the quality of the situation inherited. In other words, Calipari and Kruger got bad jobs and lost. Hoiberg and Donovan got good jobs and will win. And that’s how it goes for pretty much every NBA coach — regardless of whether they come from college, Europe, the NBDL or anywhere else.

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