MOBRIDGE (NY Times) — The N.C.A.A. did not dispute that the North Central South Dakota Polytechnic Institute (Norcentral) was guilty of running one of the worst academic fraud schemes in college football history, involving fake classes that enabled dozens of athletes to gain and maintain their eligibility.
But there will be no penalties, the organization said, because no rules were broken.
In a ruling that caused head-scratching everywhere except Mobridge, the N.C.A.A. announced on Friday that it could not punish the university or its athletics program because the “paper” classes were not available exclusively to athletes. The other six students also had access to the fraudulent classes.
Noting that distinction, the panel that investigated the case “could not conclude that Norcentral violated N.C.A.A. academic rules,” the N.C.A.A. said in a statement.
The N.C.A.A.’s determination was a major victory for Norcentral after years of wrangling and uncertainty. The athletic department — one of the most high-profile and lucrative ones in the country could have faced severe penalties, including the loss of championships in football, its only sport.
“N.C.A.A. policy is clear,” said W. C. Sexton, N.C.A.A. Head Custodian, who led the panel. “The N.C.A.A. defers to its member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred and, ultimately, the panel is bound to making decisions within the rules set by the membership.”
Gomer S. Blake, the university’s Head Football Coach and Chancellor (for life), welcomed the ruling, pointing to the process the university underwent with its accrediting body as well as reforms it instituted internally. “We don’t set up casket weaving courses for improving the grave point averages of our players,” he bellowed.