NCAA? More like NCD/D-.

Here is, according to a report by ESPN’s Outside the Lines, what amounted to an A- paper at University of North Carolina. Whistleblower Mary Willingham said it was the work of a student-athlete.

(Screengrab from ESPN)

It is 148 words long. Of those words, at least one is a misspelling and several are grammatical errors. Yes, brevity is the soul of wit, but this is not what Polonius meant.

At first, I was indignant because it turned out that it was possible to do less work than I did in college — and get on TV more!

But then that seemed a narrow, shallow way of looking at it.

If this is the kind of education that student-athletes can get away with, then student-athlete is a totally meaningless term. Student is already a meaningless enough term for the majority of the body. But this definitely does not amount to an A-. It doesn’t even amount to a paper.

And this isn’t the student’s fault.

Ah, March Madness. That fun phase where we get together to watch a bunch of very talented athletes who may or may not be learning anything play on TV for no money at all! I’m sorry, I mean that time of year when we express school pride and cheer on scholar-athletes from across the nation, scholar-athletes who generally are not affiliated with my alma mater, because the contest is not how to talk the country club down from a roof after an intense bout of croquet. (Sorry, alma mater. You had a good run this year!)

If an alien flew in and wanted to watch the NCAA tournament (an unlikely scenario for a number of reasons), and after I explained the mechanics of basketball, which, no doubt, would present something of a challenge, eventually we would come to the point at which we gazed over the field of basket and the alien wondered aloud how these tremendous athletes were being compensated.

“They are being compensated with learning,” I would say. “They are not pros, but amateurs, and they are getting Educations.”

The alien would frown at the paper from above. “So,” he would say, “they aren’t being compensated, really?”

And it would be hard to argue with him.

The graduation rates for teams selected for Round I of the NCAA basketball tournament weren’t awful — 72 percent for the men’s teams and 87 percent for the women’s teams. Some schools had rates far higher (University of Dayton) and some far lower (University of Connecticut). But a graduation rate, and even a GPA that keeps you eligible for the NCAA, means nothing if you aren’t — well — learning anything.

I don’t know what the solution is. Northwestern’s football players just unionized, which is one way to go. If you’re making the school vast amounts of money and not being compensated with much of anything, why not unionize?

It the price you pay for a GPA that keeps you eligible is to take a series of non-meeting, fake “paper courses” where you do not learn anything at all, something is seriously the matter. That’s no compensation. That’s fundamentally unjust to the student. That’s cheating someone of an education so you can make it to the play-offs.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day. She is the author of "A Field Guide to Awkward Silences".