Authors: John Adamek

Corresponding Author:
John Adamek, CSCS
4 Truman Place
Moonachie NJ, 07074

John Adamek is a strength and conditioning coach owner of Sports Science Integration. He is also a graduate student at the United States Sports Academy.

Academic Fraud in Revenue and Nonrevenue Sports

The purpose of this paper is to provide a historical overview of academic fraud in collegiate revenue and non-revenue sports, with a focus on distinguishing whether or not revenue sport programs are more likely to be at risk for academic fraud. The hypothesis is that as nonrevenue sports at universities begin over performing thus transitioning to a revenue sport, does an increased risk of academic fraud exist amongst those involved with the university. Method. The Legislative Service Database was used to gather data on academic infractions that occurred between 2003 and 2014 on universities participating in the FBS and FCS subdivisions. Data was then matched with the U.S. Departments of Education’s Equity in Athletics Data Analysis to identify the net generated revenue of the athletic department during the time of the infraction. Results show that traditional revenue sports (Men’s Basketball and Football) account for 73.9% of academic fraud cases. Of the total number of athletic programs involved in academic fraud over half, 56.5% were revenue generating. This paper should be used to educate and direct future researchers and the NCAA on developing a system to identify and manage the potential risks of academic fraud by sport and university.

Keywords: revenue sports, academic fraud, NCAA.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) was first formed in 1905 as the Intercollegiate Athletic Association of the United States (IAAUS) to formulate rules to make college football a safer sport (this committee changed their name to the NCAA seven years later in 1912). The basic purpose of the organization, as stated on page one of the NCAA Manual, is to “maintain intercollegiate athletics as an integral part of the educational program and the athlete as an integral part of the study body and, by so doing, retain a clear line of demarcation between intercollegiate athletics and professional sports” (6).

Research has shown that from the beginning of the 19th century college athletics have recognized the financial rewards from a producing, and winning, team and their willingness to engage in illegal practices to reach these rewards. The Carnegie Reports of 1929 was one of the first reports that confirmed corruption existed in athletic recruitment. Student-athletes were receiving incentives based on performance, and education was begin neglected for student-athletes (10). These reports eventually pressured the NCAA to take on a greater role in overseeing academic standards, recruiting of players and coaches, and establishing principles governing amateurism (18). Sixty-years later the Knight Commission Reports took a poll showing that 75% of Americans thoughts college athletics were out of hand and about two-thirds believed that federal and state legislation was needed to better control the corruption in collegiate sports (18). These reports also found that nearly a third of present and former professional football players accepted illicit payment while in college and the majority of them felt that there was nothing wrong with this practice (10). The financial rewards college athletic administrators identified in the early 19th century had only gotten worse throughout the years as the millions of dollars’ television rights poured into collegiate sports began raising the stakes and placing a greater priority on winning (10). The work from the Knight Commission following 1989 lead to the NCAA to pass numerous rules and regulations overseeing recruiting activities, academic standards, and financial practices (18). Unfortunately, the revenue generated from college sports such as Men’s Basketball and Football have only increased over the years with nothing but a minimal “slap on the hand” laid down by the NCAA on cases such as academic fraud (15). It is no wonder that in today’s intercollegiate athletics the rules most often broken are “those governing academic standards, recruiting, and payments to athletes (17).

According to McCaw (2012) “Academic integrity is a cornerstone of the NCAA’s governance model in that it is based upon the principle that all college athletes satisfy the same academic standards as their non-athlete peers.” The continued violations of academic integrity and academic fraud by universities with big-time collegiate sport programs undermine the purpose of higher education.

In 1983, the NCAA began setting minimum academic requirements for students to be eligible to participate on their college sports teams. Over the next twenty years these rules had become stricter to raise the graduation rate of student-athletes and make these intercollegiate athletic programs more educationally responsible. Since 2003 student-athletes must maintain a certain grade-point average (GPA) and completion of their degree for each academic grade level they achieve (4). The aim is to ensure that student-athletes are progressing through their academics on the same level as their non-athlete peers (4, 12, and 21). However, academic misconduct and academic fraud has continued to rise since 2003 regardless of those rules (20). Literature analyzing this trend states that “athletes fail academically because they give priority to sport in their use of time and level of commitment.” (17).

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has steadily become a multi-million-dollar organization in large part due to the rising popularity of Men’s Basketball and Football at the Division I – FCS level. Individual universities have recognized this revenue potential and have shown that they’re willing to break rules for this financial gain. This paper identifies the universities that broke those rules so that student-athletes can remain eligible to participate in sport, providing maximal revenue potential for the university’s athletic program. Cases of academic fraud were viewed as the best violation to compare to revenue and nonrevenue sports due to its frequency and relationship of the university providing illegal services for the student to satisfy the NCAA academic eligibility requirements. Research has focused on academic fraud cases involving Division I Men’s Football and Basketball teams and how the NCAA has been inconsistent towards handing down punishments (21). Research has also shown that teams that are nationally ranked are more likely to have players engaged in criminal activity (7) further confirming the notion that the more revenue a sports team brings to the university the greater the likelihood of illegal practices such as academic fraud.

Definition of Terms
Previous research has struggled in identifying what the NCAA constitutes as academic fraud through the failures of the NCAA to properly distinguish the term in their manual (21). According to Ebersole (2015), academic fraud occurs when a university employee arranges any extra benefit for a student athlete; such a benefit may include false academic credit, a falsified transcript, or support services outside of what the university deems appropriate. This would cover NCAA bylaws 10.1,, and (5, 8). The most common types of academic fraud are when university staff and/or faculty provide excessive academic assistance and is typically categorized under bylaw 10.1b (8, 19). In August 2016, the NCAA released the 2016-2017 Manual’s and for the first time the NCAA properly categorized academic misconduct along with academic fraud. This new definition and application was put into effect 8/1/2016 resulting in future cases of academic fraud being categorized under 14.02.1 Academic Misconduct – Post Enrollment. (6). Throughout this paper, NCAA violations of academic fraud will be defined under Bylaw 10.1-(b) Unethical Conduct, which governs a wide range of behaviors that includes academic fraud infractions (19, 21).

Academic Fraud. Bylaw 10.1-(b). Knowing involvement in arranging for fraudulent academic credit or false transcripts for a prospective or an enrolled student-athlete. (5)

Revenue sport. A sports program that reports a positive net generated revenue.

Non-revenue sport. A sports program that reports a negative net generated revenue.

Generated revenue. Generated revenues are produced by the athletics department and include ticket sales, radio and television receipts, alumni contributions, guarantees, royalties, NCAA distributions and other revenue sources that are not dependent upon institutional entities outside the athletics department. (11)

Net generated revenue. Positive net generated revenue results when total generated revenues exceed university-paid (or guaranteed) expenses. A “negative net generated revenue” results when university-paid (or guaranteed) expenses exceed generated revenues. (11)

Expense. The costs incurred by an organization in an effort to generate revenues. The costs paid by the athletics department. (11, 18)

Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS). A category of Division I institutions that are large football playing schools; they must meet minimum attendance requirements for football. Formerly known as Division I-A. (18)

Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). A category of Division I institutions that play football at a level below that of Division I-A; they are not held to any attendance requirements. Formerly known as Division I-AA. (18)

Firstly, FBS and FCS universities with Men’s basketball and football programs that produce a positive net generated revenue are more likely to engage in academic fraud to keep their athlete’s eligible to participate. These sports were singled out because of the published work that has repeatedly considered football and Men’s Basketball as revenue collegiate sports (3, 4, 16, 18, and 21). Understanding the difficulties in time management that comes from intercollegiate athletics (17), it is fair to estimate that the limited availability for student-athletes to dedicate to their studies can have a direct effect on their grades. When this occurs, they risk failing to maintain eligible for sport participation as outlined by the NCAA (4).

Secondly, the writer hypothesized that Men’s basketball and football programs were more likely to engage in academic fraud regardless if the associated university reported a positive or negative net generated revenue. Historically student-athletes in these athletic programs come from academically challenged backgrounds and are typically admitted into the university on the grounds of their athletic ability that compensates for their below-average test scores (2, 4, 12, 17). Also, these sports historically generate larger revenues then the other sports (excluding instances of Women’s basketball and Men’s Ice Hockey in FCS schools) and although the athletic program may not report a positive net generated revenue, the amount of money, exposure, and potential for increased revenue, funding, and admission have been shown to be enough of a benefit for those universities to continue funding these athletic programs (1, 3, 11).


Content Analysis
Gathering the appropriate information for the hypothesis was done through content analysis of previous research studies and scholarly papers that covered the topics of investigation. Content analysis is a systematic approach towards screening various studies, papers, articles, and texts using key words that can be assembled accordingly based on similarities (21). This was used to define primary and secondary outcome measures and covariates that were used to organize and collect data to answer the hypothesis.

Research Design
Two separate thorough investigations were designed, the first was gathering major infractions on Division I FCS and FBS universities related to academic fraud and identifying the year, the university, and sports involved. Research has shown that fewer than 5% of the intercollegiate sports programs in the United States actually report a positive net generated revenue (4). For this reason, further investigation was required to validate whether or not the university’s athletics program specifically reported a positive new generated revenue. The second thorough investigation was to then gather the financial reports of the universities that were discovered in the first part to compare revenue and expenses. Division I FCS and FBS were chosen for two reasons (1) these universities have the biggest Men’s basketball and football programs in all of college sports and (2) these divisions produce the greatest generated revenue. The timeframe I focused on was 1/1/2003 – 12/31/2014 due to the availability of data retrieved through both of the research designs. Because there was no bylaw associated to academic fraud prior to the updated 2016-2017 manual, NCAA Bylaw 10.1-b was chosen as the violation relating to academic fraud and various studies validated the reliability of using this bylaw to research of academic fraud (19, 21).

Data Collection
The first investigation involved a two-part process of the data collection. Learning from previous research, the first part utilized the LSDBi database to gather all appropriate infractions reported by the NCAA (14, 21). From the search tab located on the homepage “Major Infractions” was selected and then directed to the appropriate page. In the decision date section “1/1/2003” was typed into the start box and “12/31/2014” was typed into the end box. Under the subdivision box “FBS” and “FCS” were selected to filter out all of the other divisions and subdivisions. In the sport box all of the sports were selected to ensure that each case related to an actual sport. In the “Constitution of Bylaw Number” section 10.1 was selected. To further ensure accuracy, in the additional keywords section “academic fraud” was typed into the box while selecting “Exact Phrase” and “Public Report”. The results were sorted by “most recent”. Historically academic fraud associated with Bylaw 10.1-b, which provided a strong starting point toward compiling research. However, to ensure accuracy, a second part was carried out by opening each case file’s public record one-by-one where the writer searched the file for mentioning’s of “academic fraud”. These case files were downloaded and documented in Microsoft Excel, where each universities case is either labeled as “Football”, “Men’s Basketball”, “Football/Men’s Basketball”, or “Other” to indicate all other sports (Table 1).

Table 1
NCAA Reported Division I infractions of Academic Fraud from 2003 – 2014

FBS and FCS Schools Date of Reporting  Sanctioning Body Sport
California State University, Fresno 2003 FBS Football
University of Utah 2003 FBS Men’s Basketball
University of Georgia   2004 FBS Men’s Basketball
University of Louisiana at Monroe 2004 FBS Men’s Basketball
Baylor University 2005 FBS Other
Nicholls State University 2005 FCS Football/Men’s Basketball
Texas Christian University 2005 FBS Men’s Basketball
University of Memphis 2005 FBS Men’s Basketball
The Ohio State University 2006 FBS Football/Men’s Basketball
University of Kansas 2006 FBS Other
McNeese State University 2007 FCS Other
Purdue University 2007 FBS Other
Alabama State University 2008 FCS Football/Men’s Basketball
Southeast Missouri State University 2008 FCS Football/Men’s Basketball
University of New Mexico 2008 FBS Other
Florida State University 2009 FBS Men’s Basketball
Georgie Southern University 2010 FCS Football/Men’s Basketball
University of Michigan 2010 FBS Other
Arkansas State University 2011 FBS Other
East Carolina 2011 FBS Football
Texas Southern University 2012 FCS Football/Men’s Basketball
University of North Carolina 2012 FBS Football
University of Southern Mississippi 2013 FBS Men’s Basketball
Weber State University 2014 FCS Football

The second investigation another two-part process that involved researching each of these universities revenue, expense, and net generated revenue through the U.S. Departments of Education’s Equity in Athletics Data Analysis (9). The “Download Custom Data” option was selected to specifically choose the universities that matched Table 1. The three steps were to (1) select the sanctioning body “NCAA Division I-A” and “NCAA Division I-AA”, (2) go through and select each of the 24 universities identified in Table 1, and (3) selected all available years (2003-2014), Revenues – All Sports and Men’s, Women’s and Coed Teams, Expenses – All Sports and Men’s, Women’s and Coed Teams, and selected sport code “Football”. The second part of the process was the exact same up until the final step where “Basketball” was selected instead of “Football”. Following the completion of both parts, “Download” was selected so that two different Microsoft Excel sheets existed. One relaying the revenue and expenses of basketball and the other relaying the revenue and expenses of football.

To identify if the university’s athletic program was profitable for a given year, in both documents the difference of the “Revenue Men’s Team” and “Expenses Men’s Team” was worked out with a positive number being labeled as a “Profit” and a negative number being labeled as a “Loss”. These results were then sorted by “Year” and each year reported as a “Profit” was documented in Table 2 (Football) and Table 3 (Men’s Basketball). To define if a universities athletic program is considered a revenue sport, university programs that report a “profit” for most the years between 2003 – 2014 (at least six instances) were defined as “Profitable” as seen in Table 4

Table 2
The Years University’s’ Football Program Reported Profit

FBS and FCS Schools 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Alabama State University   X X                  
Arkansas State University                        
Baylor University       X   X X X X X X X
Florida State University X X X X X X X X X X X X
Nicholls State University           X X X        
Texas Southern University X   X     X            
The Ohio State University X X X X X X X X X X X X
University of Kansas X X X X X X X     X X X
University of Michigan X X X X X X X X X X X X
University of New Mexico X X X                  
University of North Carolina X X X X X X X X X X X X
Weber State University   X X               X X

Table 3
The Years University’s’ Men’s Basketball Program Reported Profit

FBS and FCS Schools 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
Arkansas State University                        
Baylor University           X       X    
California State University   X X X X X X X X X X X
Florida State University X X X   X X X   X X X X
Georgie Southern University                        
McNeese State University                        
Nicholls State University         X   X X X X X X
Texas Southern University       X   X X         X
The Ohio State University X X X X X X X X X X X X
University of Georgia X X X X X X X X X X X X
University of Kansas X X X X X X X X X X X X
University of New Mexico X X X X   X X X X X X X
University of Utah X X X X X X X X X X X X

Note. X = Profitable year for the athletic program

Table 4
Revenue and Non-Revenue Athletic Programs

FBS and FCS Schools Sanctioning Body Sport Revenue Sport?
California State University FBS Football No
University of Utah FBS Men’s Basketball Yes
University of Georgia FBS Men’s Basketball Yes
University of Louisiana at Monroe FBS Men’s Basketball Yes
Baylor University FBS Other N/A
Nicholls State University FCS Football / Men’s Basketball Yes / Yes
Texas Christian University FBS Men’s Basketball Yes
University of Memphis FBS Other N/A
The Ohio State University FBS Football / Men’s Basketball No / Yes
University of Kansas FBS Other N/A
McNeese State University FCS Other  
Purdue University FBS Other N/A
Alabama State University FCS Football / Men’s Basketball No / No
Southeast Missouri State University FCS Football / Men’s Basketball Yes / Yes
University of New Mexico FBS Other N/A
Florida State University FBS Men’s Basketball Yes
Georgie Southern University FCS Football / Men’s Basketball Yes / Yes
University of Michigan FBS Other N/A
Arkansas State University FBS Other N/A
East Carolina FBS Football Yes
Texas Southern University FCS Football / Men’s Basketball No / Yes
University of North Carolina FBS Football Yes
University of Southern Mississippi FBS Men’s Basketball Yes
Weber State University FCS Football No

Note. Sport is considered a “Yes” if it reported a profit for at least six of the twelve investigated years. “Other” sport’s finances weren’t reported. EADA data was unavailable for McNeese State University.


Statistics and Data Analysis
The first investigation revealed that between 2003 – 2014 there had been 24 total cases of academic fraud in the FBS (17 cases) and FCS (7 cases) sanctioning bodies (table 1). Men’s Basketball and Football have been found to make up just about 71% of the academic fraud cases during that time. Of the 24 universities, there was no data retrievable from the EADA database for McNeese State University meaning statistics and numbers following will be represented accordingly without McNeese State University factored in. The second investigation revealed 50% percent of the universities had profitable football programs for at least six of the reporting years (Table 2). A higher average was noticed in Men’s Basketball where just over 61% of the reported universities were shown to have profitable programs (Table 4). Overall, what was learned was that 12 of the 23 cases (56.5%) involving academic fraud consisted of actual revenue generating athletic programs (Table 4), whereas 17 of the 23 cases (73.91%) consisted of the Men’s Basketball and Football programs regardless if the university recorded an actual profit (Table 1).

The results from the combined investigations confirm that there does exist a greater likelihood of academic fraud amongst revenue sports. My first hypothesis was confirmed by a small margin showing that just over half, 56.5%, of academic fraud cases resulted from actual revenue sports. My second hypothesis that stated traditionally reported revenue sports would be more likely to engage in academic fraud was backed by a stronger 73.91%.
There are a number of variables that could have affected the results of this research. Since academic fraud had not been directly defined in the NCAA Handbook prior to 2016, it would be common for actual violations of academic fraud to either be defined under a different Bylaw or different violation completely. This means that the total number of academic fraud cases could be much larger then what was reported. For instance, when cases of academic fraud in my research were compared to previous research, there were some inconsistencies with actual cases. The reason for this was found for two reasons; (a) bylaw 10.1-b was indicated however academic fraud or misconduct was not the actual case of it and (b) mentioning’s of “academic fraud” appeared in the Universities Appeal of the report thus falsely coming up as an academic fraud case (21). Following the NCAA’s addition of bylaw 14.02.1 Academic Misconduct – Post Enrollment, search results should be much easier for future research.

Historically there have been inconsistencies with how the NCAA properly report and investigate instances of academic fraud (19, 21). It is also known that the NCAA will settle such violations resorting to minor punishments, which is of little surprise when you take into account the millions of dollars the NCAA receives thanks to some of these big-time programs (3, 15, and 21). Therefore, the exact number of universities that have engaged in academic fraud for an athletic advantage is unknown.

Additional sport programs were not researched to conclude if cases that involved “Other” sports generated actual revenue. This due in large part from following the suggestions of previous research that stated Men’s Football and Basketball are the two most associated revenue generating collegiate sports program (16). However, Women’s Basketball and Men’s Ice Hockey are known to report relatively high revenues in Division I FCS (11).

It is well known that intercollegiate athletics have become a multi-billion-dollar industry benefiting the NCAA and many big-time universities. The athletes whose performance ultimately dictates which team, thus university, will maximize revenue do not receive a financial incentive in doing so. Their incentive is in the form of a free education through the award of a scholarship. The NCAA had even created the term “student-athlete” in order to eliminate court cases that attempt to associate the student-athlete to an employer who should receive such benefits as a wage and worker’s compensation (2, 3, 12, and 13). However, these student-athletes are asked to dedicate an enormous amount of time towards athletics leaving but a small portion of their time for school work. If academic fraud is currently an issue with non-athletes whose time is not largely taken away by athletics, the simple notion of adding an extracurricular activity such as sports should be an expected warning of academic fraud (22). Combine the increased pressure of playing in Division I Men’s Basketball and Football for this student-athlete, and their coach’s job security, it’s easy to understand how quickly thoughts of cheating begin.

Although this paper showed but a slight increase in actual revenue sports being victimized of academic fraud over non-revenue sports, there was a strong correlation of academic fraud in traditional revenue sports, Men’s basketball and football. The reason for this can be related to the culture of which participants in these two sports come from and the behaviors that are associated with it. What it does provide is a bull’s eye on where researchers, scholars, universities, the NCAA and the Department of Education should begin the process of understanding and eliminating academic fraud with collegiate athletics. The recent additions to the NCAA 2016-2017 manual is proof that the organization is listening to the previous research being done of this topic. Future research should show the success of these new policies and recommend suggestions as they play themselves out.

Academic fraud has been an issue in the NCAA for decades, predominately in collegiate Men’s basketball and football. These sports have the potential to generate significant revenue for universities and thus, result in an increase in those involved with the sport program to support fraudulent activity. Increased attention should be dedicated towards the sport programs that traditionally generate a revenue for the university to strategically define procedures that allow for academic performance.


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