How to Write a Fake Term Paper and Get Away With It


There’s a great scene in the classic 1971 movie Dirty Harry that lends some commentary to the recent charges leveled by the NCAA against Syracuse University, specifically the academic fraud it perpetrated.

The bad guy in the flick pays some other bad guy under a bridge $50 to beat him up on purpose, then tries to pin the assault on Harry Callahan, the San Francisco cop played by Clint Eastwood. When confronted about the incident, Callahan sneers “anyone can see I didn’t do that to him, because he looks too damn good.”

Maybe that was the big problem with the term paper ghostwritten by Syracuse for Brazilian center Fab Melo. Excuse me, Student #7. The problem with that paper is that it looked too damn good.

The ghostwriters wrote too well.

According to the NCAA report, Director of Basketball Operations Stan Kissel and Basketball secretary Debora Belanger took turns writing and editing seven separate drafts of a paper, which Student #7 eventually handed in and attempted to pass off as his own work.

Maybe they should’ve stopped at the initial draft and just turned it in. You’re telling me a professor is going to buy it when a seven-footer from South America who speaks as much English as a little neck clam turns in a paper that was tag-teamed by two adults and edited several times over a 24-hour period?

Yeah, that seems plausible.

“Fine piece of work, Mr. Melo! You’re making amazing progress in my class since your last paper–the one you scribbled on the back of a Wegman’s receipt, with the pizza stains, in which you misspelled the name of the university.”

The fact the university went to such extreme lengths to doctor some homework for a student was misguided. Not that it doesn’t happen at every other institution of higher learning across the nation, but simplicity should have ruled the day.

What programs like Syracuse really need in dire situations like these–you know, crunch time when players have to complete an assignment or lose their eligibility prior to a big game–is a Designated Hack. Not a team of writers working around the clock. Just one guy. Working relatively quickly and not very carefully.

And we’re not talking about a smart guy. On the contrary. We mean someone who, without even really trying, could easily produce some mediocre writing worthy of Student #7. Somebody like, say, Joe Pesci’s lawyer character in My Cousin Vinny.

Picture Vinny Gambini sitting in his bathrobe in some sleazy downtown office, far removed from campus, waiting to carry out his next task. Just give him the student-athlete’s assignment, a bottle of Chianti, a laptop, and no more than an hour. Make sure he throws in a couple of citations the professor assigned. At the end of the hour, have him press SEND. Bingo, you got a term paper it seems like a power forward or shutdown corner conceivably could have written. The NCAA will never suspect a thing.

The other reason you hire a schmuck like Vinny Gambini to do this kind of dirty work, I mean short of actually overhauling and repairing the gaping fault line between big time college athletics and academia, is so an important guy like Stan Kissel doesn’t have to be the fall guy.

This is the dude who sat next to Jim Boeheim on the bench at every game. The Director of Basketball Operations. The guy who managed every detail, every aspect of the program. He’s not the guy you want writing fake papers. That’s a job for Vinny Gambini.

Dave Coombs is a longtime morning radio host, who used to chuck his papers underneath his college professors’ doors and run.

2 Responses to How to Write a Fake Term Paper and Get Away With It
  1. mary byrne Reply

    Even more troubling….the financial irregularities at the Tri Valley Y that could have marked 300,000 in money laundering. All the individuals in this scandal have to go.

    • Dave Coombs Reply

      Good point, Mary. It certainly should be more than one or two middle-management “rogues” who should pay the piper.

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