A feature story by Peter Keating appeared on espn.com on April 14 chronicling the rise and fall of Forest Trail Sports University, a for-profit endeavor that promised its recruits the chance to live on campus and focus on their sports year-round. There would be no teachers, libraries or curriculum unique to the school itself. Students would only study online — classes provided by Waldorf University in Iowa.
Despite the startling concept, the idea appealed to athletes leaving high school without scholarships but who weren’t ready to let their dreams go. It even appealed to parents, who understood their children’s desire to see where another year or two of athletics could take them.
Keating’s article reveals that in the spring of 2016, as many as 250 students — each charged a tuition of almost $33,000 — were ready to populate the dorms and fields at Barber-Scotia — a historically black college in Concord that had fallen on hard times and entered a deal with FTSU.
But the deal with Barber-Scotia fell through — as did the one with Waldorf University — and just before students arrived the program announced a new location: Kernersville.
The athletes were moved into a recently closed Kernersville hotel, the Phoenix, where they often lived four to a room. The hotel was filthy: Some students slept on box springs with holes in them, and one found mold in the air conditioner, according to ESPN.
The food that FTSU provided, both in quantity and quality, the students claimed, was even worse.
For facilities the athletes were forced to use a dusty, impromptu soccer field — even those who had come for baseball and track.
Finally, on Oct. 21, 11 baseball players and their coach went to the Kernersville police and gave statements about FTSU. By early November, the program’s founders had negotiated deals with some students and their families. When February came around, the university was finished.
Despite the fraud, injustice and nightmarish conditions that the students endured, the police and the State Bureau of Investigation determined that the issues between the business and its athletes were a civil matter, not a criminal one. In fact, ESPN points out, the for-profit education industry could be on the way up. Last month, the Trump administration began to relax federal reporting regulations from for-profit schools.
Only a few days before being sworn in as president, Trump reached a $25 million settlement with plaintiffs over fraud allegations at Trump University. The Triad’s Forest Trail Sports University appears to be similarly bogus.