A recent press report highlights a new lawsuit in which the plaintiff student-athletes claim that NCAA academic policies discriminate against black student-athletes and Historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The lawsuit claims that NCAA policies that punish college and university athletic programs for having low graduation rates and other poor academic records discriminate in unlawful racial patterns. The plaintiff student-athletes expect to present evidence that NCAA policies punishing athletic programs for having more student-athletes with poor academic records have a disparate impact on black student-athletes and athletic programs at historically black colleges and universities.
An Uphill Legal Battle
Presumably, the plaintiffs didn't file the above case without having evidence that NCAA academic policies do impact black student-athletes and HBCU athletic programs more than other students and other schools. But that difference alone may not prove the plaintiffs' case. Instead, under current civil rights laws, the plaintiffs may have to show more than a disparate impact, such as the NCAA's knowledge of that impact, deliberate indifference to it, and lack of a sound rationale for the academic policies the NCAA imposes. The NCAA probably does know that academic standards may, overall, impact black athletes disproportionately, given population differences in academic experiences and preparation. But the NCAA likely has a strong rationale for setting at least some academic standards for athletic programs, whether the specific standards the lawsuit challenges are warranted or not. After all, the NCAA presumably intends that academic standards serve, not punish, athletes lacking academic preparation and skills.
The Significance of Academic Performance
The bigger point for individual student-athletes, though, may be how important academics are to the student-athlete, no matter the student athlete's athletic prowess, pro prospects, or current school. Student-athletes always have a lot riding on their academic performance and record of academic integrity. One academic misstep in failing to maintain an adequate grade-point average, cheating, plagiarism, or failing to make satisfactory academic progress, and the student-athlete can lose everything. A student-athlete who faces academic probation, suspension, dismissal, or other disciplinary actions, can automatically lose the privilege of participating in athletics. Academic probation or suspension can itself be a huge setback for a student-athlete, frustrating educational and career plans. But when the student-athlete also loses the ability to compete in sports, the loss can also destroy plans for a job or career in pro sports, sports administration, sportscasting, coaching, training, and other sports-related fields.
Don't let an academic misconduct charge, allegation that you are not making satisfactory academic progress, or other charges interrupt your college or university education and athletic career. National student defense attorney advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm are available to help student-athletes nationwide with academic progress, academic misconduct, and other disciplinary issues. Call 888.535.3686 or go online now.