From Lew Margolis.
Who would have thought? The UNC football program has now recognized itself as champions of the ACC Coastal Division. Even though the NCAA clearly informed UNC in October of last year that “should a member institution be ineligible for postseason competition due to NCAA sanctions, it will be ineligible for regular season or divisional recognition” the Department of Athletics has decided otherwise, that the football team is the champion, because they would have been the champion had they followed the rules.
I would like to suggest that before choosing to flaunt the sanctions that it brought upon itself due to academic fraud and other violations of NCAA rules, and before it spent limited resources on championship rings, banners, and billboards, the Department of Athletics should have looked to its own, glossy strategic plan. One of the values in the plan is—Responsibility: Do what is right. Is it right to violate the spirit of the rule? Isn’t being the champion the ultimate recognition on the field of play? If so, how is right to claim the championship, when UNC did not play in the championship game, because it was ineligible? If doing what is right is not accepting the punishment, what does it mean, then, to have “do what is right” as a value? Perhaps the Department of Athletics is expressing its second value–Innovation-Find a better way. If our football team is prohibited from being recognized as champions, because we violated the rules, a better, more innovative, way to be champions is simply to call ourselves champions. How will football players give voice to the value of Service—Put others first? What will they say when they are engaged in service to the sick kids they visit in hospitals or children in classrooms or on local playing fields, when those kids ask, innocently and naively, if the UNC football players are the champions? Did anyone in the Department of Athletics discuss with members of the university community whether it was a good idea to bend the rules to declare, unilaterally, a football championship, given the embarrassing scandals that UNC has already been forced to address?
The Department should be asking itself what, exactly, its newly developed mission means–“we educate and inspire through athletics.” Is the Department of Athletics educating its athletes and the university community that through athletics it’s o.k. to manipulate rules to accomplish other goals?