Yes, lots of athletes will be wearing blue caps and gowns Sunday.
Of the 6,010 UNC students who graduate this weekend, about 95 of them will be varsity athletes. That is just under 1.6 percent of the graduating class, but a high percentage of all the senior jocks at Carolina – where they graduate on par with, or at a higher percentage than, the overall student body. It is getting better, witness the Tar Heel teams with near-perfect Academic Progress Reports.
With five men’s basketball players, there will be another memorable photo for Roy Williams’ office. Isaiah Hicks already modeled his cap and gown on Twitter this week, and hopefully Kennedy Meeks will be back from the NBA combine to walk in the procession with Hicks, Nate Britt, Stilman White and Kanler Coker. This is important as ever these days with so much negativity still spewed about academics.
Four of Larry Fedora’s seniors will graduate, joining seven or eight former red-shirts who got their degrees in December. Then, Mack Hollins and Nick Weiler played their final football seasons as graduate students. Fedora’s staff has reportedly dug in with the academic side of his program in an era of fewer special admits than ever. It shouldn’t be this way, but how many football and basketball players graduate reflect heavily on a school’s academic reputation.
The 26 other varsity teams at UNC have the majority of scholar athletes, the so-called elite or country club sports where many athletes enroll with a more advanced education. The list is way too long, but Carolina’s Olympic sports have their fair share of honor students every year, and those coaches are equally dogged in their preparation of students in this new age of Tar Heel sports.
Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham has set new baselines for all varsity teams, such as national rankings, ACC standings, APR and, of course, graduation rates. Cunningham is determined that on the other side of the NCAA resolution, UNC will be positioned as the new model program. Sure, the ABC crowd will pooh-pooh that, but those involved know what it now means to be a student-athlete at Carolina.