This problem is much worse than many people realize.

Inside Higher Ed reports.

An ‘Epidemic’ of Academic Fraud

The National Collegiate Athletic Association announced Thursday that it had placed Georgia Southern University on two years’ probation after finding that two former staff members committed academic fraud for three football players.

In a statement Thursday, the university noted that the violations were self-reported and that Georgia Southern self-imposed most of the resulting penalties. “Institutional checks and balances promptly detected the actions of these rogue former employees, despite their efforts to hide what they knew to be policy violations,” the university stated.

While it’s common for institutions to place the blame on a few “rogue former employees,” the case at Georgia Southern is only the most recent example of what critics and other observers of big-time college sports call an epidemic of academic fraud. In the last two years, more than a half dozen NCAA institutions have committed academic misconduct, and the association says it is investigating another 20 for similar violations.

An analysis by Inside Higher Ed of the association’s major infraction database found that the NCAA has punished Division I institutions at least 15 times for academic fraud in the last decade.

“It’s an epidemic and a problem that will continue until faculty take control of their campuses,” said David Ridpath, a professor of sports administration at Ohio University and an advocate for reforming the academic side of college sports. “This can be changed, but we simply have to want to do it. This will not stop until we define what we are: professional sports being played in the higher ed space or a cocurricular activity played by students?”

Earlier this year, the NCAA’s Division I Council adopted new rules designed to update its academic integrity policies for the first time since 1983.