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Notre Dame president criticizes NCAA, alludes to UNC academic scandal

John Jenkins, president of Notre Dame, is shown at a news conference on Monday, November 29, 2010, in Fort Worth, Texas. (Max Faulkner/Fort Worth Star-Telegram/MCT)

University of Notre Dame President John Jenkins criticized the NCAA’s decision to deny the appeal to restore the school’s 21 vacated football victories in a letter posted on the university’s website

The NCAA’s decision on the appeal was released on Feb. 13.

Jenkins alluded to UNC's academic fraud case as part of his address to the “Notre Dame Family,” although he did not refer to the school by name.

“Notre Dame’s case stands in striking contrast with another recent high-profile academic misconduct case in which the NCAA Committee on Infractions chair explained that even though certain classes ‘more likely than not’ were used to keep athletes eligible with fraudulent credits, the legitimacy of those classes was beyond the jurisdiction of the NCAA’s enforcement process precisely because that question must be left to the determination of the university in the exercise of its academic autonomy,” Jenkins said in the letter. 

“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.”

UNC and the NCAA faced criticism for lack of disciplinary action after the case was decided, and the six-year investigation ended October 2017.

In a decision originally issued by the NCAA in November 2016, the Notre Dame football program was found to have violated NCAA legislation because of academic infractions. 

The appeal did not in any way mean the excusing of academic dishonesty by students, Jenkins said in his letter. The university conducted its own investigation in accordance with its honor code and imposed penalties on students involved. 

Jenkins said the university accepted certain findings of violations they did not agree with in order to expedite the case but objected to the vacation of team records.

He said there is no precedent in previous cases of student-to-student cheating involving a part-time student worker who had no role in academic advising for the vacation of team records as a penalty.

“To impose a severe penalty for this retroactive ineligibility establishes a dangerous precedent and turns the seminal concept of academic autonomy on its head,” Jenkins said in the letter. 

“At best, the NCAA’s decision in this case creates a randomness of outcome based solely on how an institution chooses to define its honor code; at worst, it creates an incentive for colleges and universities to change their honor codes to avoid sanctions like that imposed here.”


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