The Maricopa County Community College District has launched a broad examination of its sports programs to determine whether athletics officials compromised the academic integrity of classes taken by many players.
Scottsdale Community College’s top academic official last week ordered major reforms to ensure that classes on sports coaching actually meet and operate as legitimate classes. The action follows a Tribune report that detailed a system that allowed student athletes to take classes that were nothing more than team meetings or didn’t meet at all.
For years, an SCC athletic director has overseen both the teams and the physical education classes that a majority of players take.
“SCC is working to lessen the blur of these two roles,” said Dean Hermanson, the college’s interim vice president for academic affairs, in a memo to SCC’s top executives.
At campuses throughout the nation’s largest junior col lege system, team coaches en roll their players in classes on athletic coaching that are often just team meetings.
A Tribune investigation published earlier this month detailed how the classes count as much toward a student’s grade point average as an English or math course. Almost everyone gets an A.
Mesa, Scottsdale, Glendale and South Mountain community colleges have coaching classes that boost grades for athletes on almost all their teams.
Team coaches taught the majority of the 64 coaching classes that college athletes took during the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years, district data show. Those coaches have a vested interest in keeping their players academically eligible.
After the Tribune presented the district its findings in May, MCCCD Chancellor Rufus Glasper assigned two of his vice chancellors to head an inquiry into the coaching classes.
Glasper said in a written statement that he has directed the system’s 10 college presidents “to immediately review any questionable activity.”
“We cannot wait for a task force or panel to do the work we should be doing ourselves at each college and in every district division,” he said.
Glasper set the end of the fall semester as a deadline for the district to have instituted systemwide reforms.
At SCC, changes already exist on paper.
Hermanson’s memo says that next semester, athletic directors must keep a log of when they schedule team practices and games to verify that they have not created conflicts with coaching classes.
This spring, 21 of the baseball teams’ games were scheduled for the same time as coaching classes taught by the hitting and pitching coaches. District records show football coaching classes often overlap with the team’s spring practices.
Additionally, the physical education department director is required to make unannounced visits to the classes.
Maricopa’s other colleges might soon follow SCC’s lead.
“I have told all the presidents and vice chancellors that I expect similar actions to
be taken immediately,” Glasper said.
The National Junior College Athletic Association, which governs sports at most two-year schools, does not have a single regulation concerning academic integrity. Regardless, the association will take action if evidence of wrongdoing surfaces, said Wayne Baker, NJCAA’s executive director.
“Certainly an activity that may not follow the academic guidelines established within the college curriculum would be of concern to the NJCAA,” Baker wrote in an e-mail Wednesday in response to questions posed by the Tribune.
He said the association does not intend to take action until MCCCD completes its internal review of the coaching classes.
Arizona’s three public universities accept the coaching classes when students transfer from the Maricopa college system.
On Wednesday, Arizona State University began a preliminary review of the classes to see if ASU needs to take any action, said Maggie Tolan, a vice provost.
A state board, made up of officials from all the public universities and junior colleges, decides what classes transfer from one school to another.
Northern Arizona University does not have the authority to reject a junior college class that the state has approved, said Ron Pitt, an associate provost. “That’s probably a fault in the system.”