Thursday, July 06, 2006

NCAA Finally Making Progress On The Diploma Mill Front?

Yes and no.

The NCAA did strip 16 institutions of Clearinghouse approval yesterday. But only three -- North Atlanta Prep in Covington, Ga.; Christopher Robin Academy in Springfield Gardens, N.Y.; and Word of God Christian Academy in Raleigh, N.C. -- appear to have top-level athletes. Some of the schools on the list no longer exist, don't have athletic teams or are part of juvenile detention programs.

Yesterday's announcement was a major victory for Lutheran Christian Academy in Philadelphia. The Post reported in February that Lutheran Christian, which sent players to Georgetown and George Washington, was operated out of a community center, has no textbooks and has only one full-time employee, basketball coach Darryl Schofield, a former sanitation worker with no college degree.

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Five schools from the original list of 15 have since been approved by the NCAA, meaning there are now 26 schools that have not been cleared. But like Philadelphia Christian and Celestial Prep - neither of which has a high school basketball program any longer - this most recent list of 16 schools seems to be mostly made up of those that didn't bother to file the paperwork necessary to meet the NCAA requirements.

Seven of the schools on the new list of 16 are listed as being in Santa Ana, Calif.

See the Inquirer link for extensive comments from Darryl Schofield (Lutheran's founder/coach/everyman). He is not too keen on the media right now.

This latest list of banned schools (BugMeNot) is the result of the NCAA's second round of evaluations. The NCAA missed the mark with its initial list of banned institutions, and it seems they've made a few of the same mistakes again. As noted by the Washington Post in the above excerpt, several of the schools which compose the list do not field basketball teams. Some schools no longer exist. And Philadelphia Lutheran is safe for the time being.

The NCAA also released a list of 22 schools that are still subject for review, and it's the conspicuous names on this particular list--Philly Lutheran, the Laurinburg Institute, the Patterson School--which suggest the NCAA is moving in the right direction. Oak Hill Academy is also on this "subject for review" list; its officials are not pleased.

"I'm absolutely stunned on a couple of levels," Michael Groves, the president of Oak Hill, said last night in a telephone interview. "I've never spoken with anyone from the N.C.A.A. I'm a bit outraged that I'm learning about a list from reporters that's damaging Oak Hill's reputation."

Oak Hill is guilty of having a good hoops program, but not much else. At least the NCAA found a school that actually has a basketball team.

Two of the other well-known institutions on the "subject for review" list are located in North Carolina: Patterson and Laurinburg. John Calipari has practically made his Memphis career by picking up players from Laurinburg; just take a look at his 2005 class.

As I was searching for information on some of the schools that were banned by the NCAA, I found an investigation of Christopher Robin Academy done by's Tom Farrey in May of 2002. That story includes this fun little tidbit:

[F]ormer Tar Heel guard Ed Cota attended Christopher Robin for at least one summer during high school in a desperate attempt to raise his grades. Eric "Rock" Eisenberg, Cota's former coach at Brooklyn's Tilden High School, said he enrolled the then-highly regarded prospect in two courses, paying the $500 tuition, because Cota was in deep academic trouble.

"I wouldn't have enrolled him if I knew there was no accreditation and no learning," Eisenberg said. "I didn't think he was going to get taught by Harvard professors, but I was hoping he would learn something."

Steven Katz, Cota's teacher that summer, said Cota showed up for class only twice, on the first and last days of the session. "He just came on the last day of class and turned in all his assignments," said Katz, a Christopher Robin teacher from 1990 to '94.

At the time of the investigation, the NCAA appeared disinterested:

As a matter of policy, the NCAA chooses not to pass judgment on the quality or credentials of any school. The association has never ordered the removal of any of the 22,000 high schools in its database, and it isn't going to start with Christopher Robin, said Diane Dickman, NCAA director of membership services. Her division handles academic matters.

"There are almost no scenarios under which the NCAA would begin to police this secondary school or any secondary school in terms of whether we would accept core courses or not," Dickman said. "It's an inappropriate role for us to play. The state of New York and state department of education have clear jurisdiction over the school."

Some strong language from Dickman...and look where everything stands today. The NCAA's gone from well-there's-nothing-we-can-do to let's-have-a-huge-inquiry-and-start-banning-schools-haphazardly.

More on the subject:
NCAA probes N. Phila. prep school's curriculum
The Growing Prep School Problem
What's Happening With Diploma Mills???