(Photo: Benjamin Rusnak)
To be a college athlete, you have to be a college student. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has basic academic requirements that student athletes must meet if they want to compete in the college sports that it governs.
Not all college athletes have what it takes to succeed academically. When they can’t—when they have problems with their grades—they call Mr. White. He fixes their problems.
Brad Wolverton has a lengthy article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the shadowy underworld in which, until recently, Mr. White worked. He wanted to be a basketball coach, but couldn’t make the cut. However, Mr. White found related employment available:
Mr. White’s first client, who was being recruited by top Division I programs, was having trouble with an online mathematics class. Mr. White says he spent several days with the player, completing homework assignments and quizzes for an independent-study class at Brigham Young University.
They finished about half the course that week, Mr. White says. He wrote down the player’s online log-in and password, and completed the rest by himself.
The setup was so simple, Mr. White decided to use it again. Later that season he helped many of his own players pick up easy BYU credits. He began to wonder: If he could do this for one team, why not more?
Soon, Mr. White was doing more than just adding student-supplied answers to online courses. He was completing them entirely by himself. More students discreetly sought him out. Coaches did, too:
To pay for the classes, Mr. White often used prepaid credit cards. He purchased them with cash he had received from players’ coaches. His fee depended on how quickly the players needed the credits. A simple setup—three credit hours, six to eight weeks—ran a couple of hundred dollars. A more elaborate job could cost five times as much.
Those first few years, he did almost everything online, unaware of how easily his movements could be monitored. He arranged students’ work on his employer-issued computer and proctored many of the classes himself. But after reading about other coaches who were caught helping players take online classes, he began enrolling students in correspondence courses, figuring he could hide his fraud more easily through the mail.
It was a good way to make money. But even more than that, Mr. White was in the empire business:
As his reputation grew, he had a hard time saying no. In one 18-month stretch from 2003 to 2005, he says, he helped more than 75 players. For Mr. White, a self-described “fat, bald white guy” who didn’t play much competitive basketball beyond high school, the attention was alluring.
“Basically, I’m like a drug addict,” he says. “I get off on the excitement, about being able to get it done.”
Eventually, he was caught. Mr. White lost his job. Now potential clients are shying away from him, fearful of being caught in the scrutiny that NCAA investigators are paying to Mr. White. But the damage is already done. He helped hundreds of student athletes cheat, three of whom eventually played professional basketball and baseball.
-via Glenn Reynolds