Universities Investigate Possible NCAA Tutoring Violations

The University of Southern California and University of Washington are investigating a possible rules violation in which an assistant coach may have helped a potential high school recruit pay for private tutoring. NPR's Scott Simon talks with sports reporter Tom Goldman about the investigation and the perplexing NCAA rule book, and to bid San Francisco's Candlestick Park a fond farewell.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Speaking of naughty, time for sports.

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SIMON: What? A university accused of trying to improve its students' academic performance? There's a lead for sports. And one of the most distinctive, sometimes despised, major league stadiums is closing. NPR's Tom Goldman joins us. Happy holidays, my friend.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Same to you, Scott.

SIMON: So, USC, University of Washington are investigating possibly violation of NCAA rules. An assistant coach helped a potential recruit pay for private tutoring to pass his tests? What's going on here?

GOLDMAN: Well, it's against NCAA rules for a school, someone representing a school, to pay for a recruit's academic services - tutoring, SAT prep classes. It appears to be part of the NCAA's zealous - some would say overzealous - vigilance about extra benefits for student athletes. Now, Scott, certainly guarding against academic fraud is an admirable thing; athletes having others take tests for them, write papers for them. But this appears to be a young man going the legal route of trying to getter his GPA, his test scores, something a lot of perspective students do.

SIMON: Yeah. And I wonder, certainly, as you noted, it's done very commonly. At the same time, is this an excess of sort of missionary-like zeal?

GOLDMAN: By the NCAA?

SIMON: Yeah.

GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, you know, right now we don't know that the NCAA is involved in this. As you said, the universities are investigating to see if those rules were breached. But, yeah, I mean, the NCAA, you know, wants to guard what many believe is an outdated notion of amateurism by student athletes, and this may fall into that category.

SIMON: Tom, the Stick, last name on Monday night. It's going to be between Falcons and the 49ers. The coldest winter night I ever spent was watching a baseball game in Candlestick Park. A lot of history there.

GOLDMAN: A tremendous amount of history: Joe Montana, Steve Young, Willie Mays - you name it. But, you know, as you say, it was the spring and summer months, ironically - of the baseball season when we wear our shorts and drink beer and all that stuff - when the conditions were the worst. Tough on visiting players, especially since they never had a chance to get used to the conditions. Matter of fact, I talked to one former player for a MORNING EDITION piece I'm doing for Monday - J.T. Snow. He played first base for the Giants for nine seasons, including the last three years the Giants played at Candlestick. He thinks the Giants had the best home-field advantage of any team in the National League, maybe even all of baseball, because so many opponents came to town and weren't prepared for the elements and groused through games. And Snow says the swirling winds actually made him a better defensive player because he had to learn how to position himself and make quick adjustments, especially on towering pop flies. So, yeah, Scott, we bid adieu to Candlestick after this season for the 49ers, but many will big good riddance.

SIMON: Ah, I thought it was a totally distinctive place - I enjoyed it. But easy for me to say 'cause you know I never had to catch a pass there. NPR's Tom Goldman. Thanks very much for being with us.

GOLDMAN: You're welcome.

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SIMON: And you're listening to WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News.

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