UNC president: Lighten load for freshmen student-athletes

Posted March 19, 2014

— University of North Carolina President Tom Ross says easing the transition to college for student-athletes could help improve their academic performance.

Ross spoke this week with the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, an independent panel that has worked for two decades to reform college sports. He said lightening the course work for first-year student-athletes – and extending their scholarships to give them more time to graduate – could help them better balance the competing demands of academics and athletics and make them more successful in school.

UNC-Chapel Hill has endured in recent years an NCAA investigation into improper benefits to athletes and internal probes into academic fraud in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Ross said those scandals didn't come up during the Knight Commission meeting, but he contends that learning from those mistakes must be part of reform.

Administrators have implemented new policies and procedures to prevent further abuse, and Ross said UNC-Chapel Hill continues to have a solid reputation nationally. Student applications and research grants are up in the past few years.

"I think most people have kept perspective about this," he said. "It's a terrible, terrible situation that has happened, but it's not a widespread, university-wide kind of situation."

The UNC Board of Governors has launched a new academic investigation, led by former U.S. Justice Department investigator Kenneth Wainstein. Ross said Wainstein will be able to use information gathered during a State Bureau of Investigation probe of the academic fraud to dig deeper than previous internal reviews have been able to go.

"It will be my guess that he finds it out through people that he's been able to talk to that we were not able to talk to as a result of their unwillingness to talk," Ross said. "We've just got to do everything possible, No. 1, to understand the facts and, No. 2, to act on them and make sure this university moves forward."

There's no time or cost limit to Wainstein's investigation, he said.


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  • Confucius say Mar 20, 2014

    Okay, for those of you who say that standards need to be raised to the highest level, how are you going to feel when UNC (or your school of choice) can't win a game because many of the top highschool prospects can't get in, or can't stay in due to grades? Can't have it both ways.

  • spiritseeker Mar 20, 2014

    Lighter load equates to less education garnered before many quit school to go professional without any requirement to reimburse their scholarship money and the ancillary expenses involved in providing for them to be UNC athletes.

  • A person Mar 20, 2014

    If you can perform as a student, then what right do they have to represent the student body as an athlete for the school??????

  • A person Mar 20, 2014

    Can we set the bar any lower for these athletes. Not much to look up to as role models anymore.

  • Deb Rodgers Mar 20, 2014
    user avatar

    My daughter graduated in 4 yrs, took classes over the summer to make sure she achieved her goal. She was also part of the marching band and spent many hours practicing and performing, yet still graduated cum laud...a student that is committed to school and excellence in the classroom can achieve that goal.

  • uBnice Mar 20, 2014

    View quoted thread

    Actually students are taking a longer time to graduate because many must work and therefore take lighter loads. And hence a longer time in school.

    Since most of these athletes are putting in nearly 30 hours of work per week, then it only makes sense to do for them what the general student body faced with the same scenario is also doing.

  • Deb Rodgers Mar 20, 2014
    user avatar

    I suggest that they don't give scholarships to students that can't handle both the school work load and participating in sports. Stop dumbing down college athletes.

  • readme Mar 20, 2014

    Ah here we go. Let's lower the bar and our expectations and pretend like we're actually enforcing standards. How about all the people that are working 30 hours a week to help pay for college? Are we going to lighten their loads also? Of course not. If we're really going to say college is primarily about learning, then we can't change the rules based on how someone chooses to spend their time away from the books.

  • Andy Hairston Mar 20, 2014
    user avatar

    Student first, athlete a distant second. if an athlete can't manage both athletics and education, then drop the athletics! Reducing the education standard for these students because they're athletes is crazy.

  • tayled Mar 20, 2014

    Why not go back to the day when freshmen athletes did not play oon the vasity. They played on a JV team with limited games to get accustomed to college life and mature a bit. That would help a lot. some would say, well, that might mean more athletes skipping college and going to the pros. If they do that, they don't belong in college anyway.