Editorial | Two sets of rules?

Editorial | Two sets of rules?

Is academic fraud in major college sports subject to NCAA jurisdiction or not?

If ever there was an institution used to issuing edicts without real accountability, it's the NCAA — especially when it comes to imposing, or not, penalties on schools for athletic rules violations.

The NCAA does pay, however, in the court of public opinion when it appears to rule one way in a case and another way in a similar case.

That's what Notre Dame President John Jenkins was hoping when he wrote a scathing letter to school supporters in which he decried a recent decision vacating 21 football victories in the 2012 and 2013 seasons.

One of Jenkins' complaints stems from the NCAA's recent decision to dismiss years-long academic fraud at the University of North Carolina on the grounds that it's the university's responsibility, not the NCAA's, to address it.

If that's the case, Jenkins suggested, why was the University of Notre Dame punished for academic fraud that it discovered and penalized under the Catholic school's own rules?

"The notion that a university's exercise of academic autonomy can under NCAA rules lead to exoneration — or to a severe penalty — without regard to the way in which it is used defies logic and any notion of fundamental fairness," the Rev. Jenkins complained.

In the Notre Dame case, a female student who was a part-time assistant to the football program's athletic trainers completed homework for two football players.

The cheating scandal was discovered, and all the participants punished through university processes.

"In the curious logic of the NCAA, however, it is precisely the application of our Honor Code that is the source of the vacation of wins penalty, for the recalculation of the grades in 2014 led to the three student-athletes being deemed ineligible retroactively," Jenkins complained.

Reasonable people can disagree with Jenkins' complaint that Notre Dame was unfairly or excessively penalized. But it seems obvious that it was excessively punished compared with the nonpunishment for the egregious, institutionalized academic fraud that kept North Carolina athletes from a variety of sports eligible for many years.

Frankly, it just doesn't pass the smell test, and there's no way NCAA officials can explain it away.

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