The scandal at the University of North Carolina has taken a turn for the worse — much worse. It has far transcended even what their internal audit of 2007-2011 revealed. As the investigation progresses, each opened door reveals more and more institutionalized fraud. It is a veritable nightmare.
Or, wait! There’s that word “schadenfreude” again. How is Mark Emmert of the NCAA going to handle this one? When he spoke of Penn State’s transgressions, he called them unprecedented. Well, guess what? At North Carolina, not only are the transgressions worse in that they hit at the heart of the basic student-athlete concept that is the foundation of the NCAA, but also they involve an internal conspiracy between academics and athletics that has existed for many years.
Lest someone pull out “the victims” or “the children” to smack me between the eyes, I have to say that Sandusky’s crimes were terrible, and if Spanier, Curley, Schultz, and Paterno knew about what was going on there (and we still haven’t established that to everyone’s satisfaction), they were good men gone bad. Or bad men gone worse, if you prefer. My point is not that there is a defense for anything that went on at Penn State, but that it was a criminal matter, a non-athletic, and a non-academic matter. It involved a criminal and possibly four facilitators, arguably not within the NCAA purview. I won’t go on forever, as many dead horses won’t forgive me when I join them in the great beyond.
Now, on to North Carolina. Folks, we’re talking big-time institutionalized academic fraud in support of athletes who were given the easy ride through nonexistent classes. The 2007-2011 review revealed fraud and poor oversight in 54 no-show classes in the Department of African and Afro American Studies. These classes met either irregularly or not at all, and last summer included one class with 18 current football players.
That would be bad enough, right? Well, the big newspaper in North Carolina, the Raleigh News & Observer did some additional digging. Whereas the university said that two department heads were responsible for the fraud, the newspaper found evidence that academic advisers steered athletes to the crib courses. The UNC Board of Governors has shown reluctance to dig more deeply into the scandal.
But that’s not all. Recent revelations suggest that a couple of prominent UNC players could have benefited gradewise from similar fraudulent schemes up to a dozen years ago. A transcript purportedly belonging to Julius Peppers, now a Chicago Bear, and another belonging to Marvin Austin have turned up — showing that they were academically ineligible for sports. This could just be the tip of the iceberg.
But the larger question for the university is the possibility that the academic fraud had gone undetected for more than a dozen years, and may have stayed that way without public knowledge of the transcripts of Austin and Peppers.
Peppers was a two-sport athlete: basketball and football. That means there are two programs the NCAA should be investigating. Yet no one has heard a peep from the great white palace in Indianapolis.
So, what’s it going to be, Mark Emmert? Here you have a situation that hits at the heart of the student-athlete concept that you and the NCAA hold so dear. You made a great show of lowering the boom on Penn State, levying draconian punishments against a football program that was innocent in itself of any transgressions and you decried the football culture at Penn State even though PSU’s graduation rate for athletes is at the top of the heap. What are you going to do now with UNC, with collusion between athletics and academics? What are you going to do now that it appears as if the vaunted basketball program was also involved?
Just because UNC doesn’t make the NBC Nightly News with their scandal doesn’t mean you can ignore it, Emmert. Where are the death threats? Come on, already. We’re watching you, and you can’t squirm out of this one!
Thanks to reader Joe for pointing me toward a Sporting News article and video that got me cranked up. For a refreshing change from other publications that were quick to condemn Penn State, I thought TSN was fair to the Lion.