How Trump used the 2016 NCAA Tournament to undermine academic integrity
With his election, Donald Trump used a rigged NCAA Tournament as an opportunity to undermine college sports’ academic integrity and diminish the credibility of the nation’s academic institutions.
In a series of tweets and comments, the president falsely claimed that he used the tournament as an excuse to “sue universities that didn’t like” his candidacy.
Trump then attacked two prominent colleges in particular: Ohio State and Michigan State.
“They got into a big legal battle over a basketball tournament,” Trump tweeted.
“Now the university is suing the President of the United States, who they say has been a friend of theirs, for $5 billion.
This is what happens when academics are left to do their work and the American people are left out in the cold.
Can you imagine if the NCAA had just done its job and had given the students the results, as it should have done, in the first place?
But no, they got into it over nothing.”
In fact, Ohio State University’s athletic department has sued Trump over his 2016 boycott of the university’s championship basketball tournament.
In the lawsuit, which was filed in September, Ohio University said the Trump administration was “intentionally attempting to undermine and intimidate Ohio University’s academic integrity” and the university “was compelled to seek relief” from the president.
“Ohio University’s university reputation has been harmed by the President’s attacks, and it is imperative that the university receive all of the necessary information before filing this lawsuit,” Ohio University wrote in the lawsuit.
“We are filing this action to seek information regarding whether or not the President intends to use the 2016 National Collegiate Athletic Association championship to retaliate against Ohio University, its students, faculty, staff and other institutions of higher learning.”
Ohio State University also alleged that Trump had retaliated against Ohio State for refusing to endorse the president during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“As we all know, Ohio has a history of academic freedom and the Trump Administration has repeatedly attacked academic freedom at Ohio State,” the school said in a statement.
“It is a sad day when the university, its president and the administration are seeking to punish Ohio State students, staff, faculty and staff members for their academic and ethical integrity.
We look forward to working with our allies at the Department of Education to ensure the university has the information it needs to continue to flourish and thrive in the 21st century.”
Trump also tweeted about the lawsuit and Ohio State’s lawsuit on March 16, claiming the university had filed an unfair lawsuit against him and that “it’s time for the university to start acting like a real university.”
“It’s time to stop suing Ohio State, its football program and its athletic department, and start acting more like a really great university,” he tweeted.
In response to Trump’s tweet, Ohio Sports Commission Chair Bill Connelly said in an emailed statement: “We appreciate the president’s leadership, but we are disappointed in his decision to sue the university.
It is clear from his actions that he does not respect or value academic freedom.
He has taken action against our institutions in the past to silence academic freedom, including by suing our colleges and universities for their faculty members’ opinions.
We will defend Ohio State in this matter.”
Michigan State University and Ohio University also sued Trump in October, and both universities’ complaints allege that Trump’s actions violated university rules and academic freedom guidelines.
Michigan State’s complaint alleges that the president “has engaged in a pattern of violating university policies and guidelines to harass, intimidate and interfere with academic freedom” and Ohio’s complaint says the president has “engaged in an illegal and unethical conduct that violates academic freedom standards and is detrimental to the university and its student athletes.”
Michigan University has already filed a separate lawsuit against Trump, which has not yet been resolved.
Michigan Secretary of State Brian Kemp told the Detroit News in October that he expects Michigan State’s case to go to trial.
Michigan and Ohio are among 13 schools that were ordered to pay Trump more than $4 million in unpaid student debt in the wake of his campaign boycott.