College Sports Programs Use Privacy Law to Hide Their Inner Workings, Newspaper Says
College athletics departments across the country routinely invoke a 1974 student-privacy law to conceal information about the inner workings of their sports programs, keeping the public in the dark about violations of NCAA rules governing the $5-billion-a-year enterprise, The Columbus Dispatch reported.
The Ohio newspaper investigated how all 119 colleges in Division I-A interpret the federal statute, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or Ferpa, which bars colleges from releasing students’ personal information without their written permission.
Former U.S. Sen. James L. Buckley of New York, who was the law’s chief legislative sponsor, told the newspaper that Congress’s intent was to shield academic records from public view. But several of the colleges contacted by the Dispatch cited the law in refusing to release any documents relating to NCAA violations. Others released heavily redacted documents, blacking out all the names mentioned in reports.
The law has been used to shield the identities of athletes who have cheated or committed crimes, of coaches who have broken recruiting rules or committed academic fraud, of rogue boosters, and even of a television broadcaster, the newspaper said.
“That’s not what we intended,” Mr. Buckley, now a retired federal judge who is 86, told the Dispatch. “The law needs to be revamped. Institutions are putting their own meaning into the law.” —Charles Huckabee