Fifteen miles from his home, tucked in a corner of a 10-by-10 storage unit, under an antique table, is a gray filing cabinet. Locked inside he keeps the test answers for more than a dozen online courses.
Among his files is a pink steno pad of names, covering the front and back of 80 pages, that includes some of the biggest stars in college sports. Next to the names are credit-card numbers and PINs, log-ins, passwords, Social Security numbers, and addresses.
The handwritten notes, by a onetime academic adviser and college-basketball coach, are part of an elaborate scheme. Over the past 14 years, he says, he has used test keys to cheat for hundreds of athletes, helping them meet the eligibility requirements of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
For others, he provided homework answers and papers that the students would submit themselves. At exam time, he lined up proctors and conspired with them to lie on behalf of students.
Many times, he says, the players’ coaches directed athletes his way. Sometimes, players’ parents or handlers arranged the details.
He did most of his work in college basketball, but he has also helped football players, baseball players, and golfers, among others. The vast majority of his clients never made it big. But, according to records he shared with The Chronicle, his fraud reached the highest levels. A handful of the players listed in his notes were drafted to play in the NBA. At least two are the children of former professional athletes. One is a back-up catcher in Major League Baseball.
The fixer’s name is Mr. White. He spoke to The Chronicle on the condition that his first name not be used, for fear of retribution. He is a married, 42-year-old father of two. Over a nearly 20-year career, he worked for four colleges, from the mid-Atlantic region to the South.
His side business was lucrative. One year, he says, he made more than $40,000 arranging classes. But he says money wasn’t his motive.
He believes that many would not have earned a major-college scholarship without his help.
The other part was about his career. He wanted a big-time coaching job, and he figured this could give him exposure to many programs.
He has met plenty of Division I coaches; he has three phones filled with their numbers. He thought he was their friend, that they would return the favors. They gave him VIP tickets, he says, and paid him back through camp appearances. But when it came time to hire, they didn’t want him in their club.
Two years ago, the NCAA investigated Mr. White and five colleges that had recruited his students. Former NCAA investigators say they knew his players’ classes were a sham. But because the NCAA could find no wrongdoing by the colleges themselves, the investigation fizzled.
For Mr. White, the ordeal drove home the reality that he could be exposed. It also helped him realize the error of his way, he says, and made him want to atone for his mistakes.is that many students he set out to help were the ones most hurt. He agreed to tell his story in part to expose flaws in the system.
The Chronicle contacted more than two dozen people with alleged connections to the fraud, including coaches, players, parents, and proctors. Many would not talk on the record, for fear of losing their jobs or harming their reputations. But many corroborated key details on which this article is based.
Mr. White may be an extreme example, but his breaches illustrate the ease with which intercollegiate athletics can be exploited, its rules manipulated, and the inability of colleges and regulators to control it.
In the wake of revelations about widespread academic impropriety at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, colleges are facing increased scrutiny over academic violations. Cheating and deception, including cases previously unreported, lurk throughout college sports. Last spring a former assistant basketball coach in the Southeastern Conference attempted to pass online test answers to a former colleague, according to a director of academic support with knowledge of the situation. A coach in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference told The Chronicle how he had helped players trick webcams set up to monitor their online exams. And a former Division I assistant described how he had spent years handing players the answers to online tests.
As for Mr. White, he says he is largely out of the business. But several months ago, he got a call from a high-profile basketball coach. A player needed nine credits in one week. Could he help?