Art’s Angle: Getting It Right

By Art Chansky Posted February 3, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Even while watching the Carolina-State game Saturday and, later, the incredible Duke-Syracuse thriller, I thought about the out-of-control academic scandal here.

UNC-vs.-NC-State-042The Tar Heels recruited a bunch of players who ended up at State, Duke and Syracuse; Roy Williams even said last week that he tried like heck to get the Wolfpack’s T.J. Warren, who leads the ACC in scoring. All the schools recruit some of the same athletes in all sports and offer them scholarships. If we sign a trainload of dummies every year, how did all of those kids wind up at their current schools?

Granted, State did not play as smart as the Tar Heels, Blue Devils and Orange on Saturday. But to gain eligibility for a scholarship, every athletic applicant must be vetted by something called the NCAA Clearing House. The NCAA has a pretty low base for admissions; some schools use it, while others have higher entrance requirements.

And, yes, each school takes a small percentage of “special admits.” Maybe we haven’t maximized their academic experience (which school does?), but they still got admitted by someone’s standards.

Mary Willingham is right in one thing she says: we owe a relatively few athletes who don’t or can’t find it for themselves a better learning experience by “steering” them to or creating courses that truly fit their educational needs. Test and evaluate all the jocks when they arrive on campus, and put them where they have the best chance to learn more today than they knew yesterday!

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Talk to any former varsity athlete at any school, and he or she will know of such an ad-hoc curriculum of crip courses. How hard would it be to organize some legitimately necessary remedial classes that actually make kids smarter and teach them things they didn’t know?

And the rewards would be plentiful: satisfaction that we are doing our best to really educate all athletes while also making millions off their great play on the fields and court.

[Whether they should get a piece of that pie is another column for another day.]

If not, here is what might happen in five years. The faculty gets its way and there are no more “special admits” for athletes. We lose enough games in the revenue sports that we’re in the red financially and have to drop certain varsity teams. Fedora would have fled. Bubba would have bolted. And Roy would have retired.

Folt might be history, too, when the next Board of Trustees decides we’ve lost enough games and money and we need to bring in more great athletes. And you know what that means? A wasted five years.

So, let’s get it right now while there is still time. And what does continuing to look back accomplish, other than further damaging the reputation of a great university and unfairly messing with some legacies that need not be touched?

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Back to the games. The Wolfpack bus was escorted to Chapel Hill by Wake County police, and the fuzz stayed around to high five every Wolfpack player as he left the locker room to take the court. They must have had some greasy kid stuff on their hands because State shot 25 percent in the first half and never got back in the game. The half ended with the Pack twice ignoring Coach Mark Gottfried’s call to hold for one shot. The Pack shot twice, missed twice and Carolina got the ball back for the last shot it never took because Marcus Paige charged.

Both coaches left the court red hot.

McAdoo rises up over Wolfpack defenders (Todd Melet)

The Tar Heels played well enough to win, defended nicely in the first half and made enough free throws to keep their lead in double digits. James Michael McAdoo is on a tear, and he and his mates are starting to go to the basket like bulls. But when they get there, they can’t seem to finish the play, either shooting too hard or being weak with the ball while going up. And they had a lousy day dunking, misfiring on several alley-oops and close-in slams.

But they are 4-4 in the ACC after starting 1-4, and can actually finish the first half of the season with a winning record by beating Maryland Tuesday night. That would make it four in a row, and five straight could come at Notre Dame this Saturday. Then the Dukies arrive on February 12.

Mike Krzyzewski has truly built a program for the ages, when his team can go into a building that has hosted Big East rival games for 30 years and break the all-time attendance record at the Carrier Dome. Sure, they were almost all in Orange cheering to keep their unbeaten season going, but only Duke can draw that crowd a thousand miles from Durham. And they generally live up to all the hype.

Rasheed Sulaimon’s running three-pointer to force overtime after two starters had fouled out was just the kind of play Duke has made for years. The Blue Devils fell in overtime because what they had left on the court was not as good as the second-ranked Syracuse starters. But it was one of those games that nobody lost.

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