Colleges manipulate and fail athletes as a matter of routine
Once he got on campus, however, he was quickly informed by his academic counselors that North Carolina didn’t have a criminal justice major. According to McAdoo, his counselor picked his major, African-American studies, because it wouldn’t interfere with football practice.
Among the first classes he was “assigned” (as he phrases it) was a Swahili course, an “independent studies” class taught by the department chairman, Julius Nyang’oro. “There wasn’t any class,” McAdoo recalled. “You sign up. You write the paper. You get credit. I had never seen anything like it.” He never once met his professor. Despite the strange circumstances, he researched and wrote the paper. It was that paper that got him in the trouble with the N.C.A.A.
“All the academic counselors knew about the paper classes” — as they were called — “and they all steered athletes to them,” says Mary Willingham, a former academic counselor at the university.
But when the N.C.A.A. went after McAdoo, there was no mention of the phony classes. The school certainly never mentioned them, and as for the N.C.A.A., all it cared about was whether McAdoo had committed academic fraud for getting citation help in a class that never met. McAdoo’s contention — that he had no reason to believe he had done anything wrong, because he had simply done what he’d been told to do — fell on deaf ears. His college career was sacrificed so that the N.C.A.A. could maintain its longstanding pretense that college athletes are supposed to be students first.