Kudos to WCHL and Jim Heavner for his thoughtful interview with Bubba Cunningham, the Director of Athletics at UNC. These athletics scandals have harmed the entire UNC community, so they demand that we ask difficult questions and challenge the often mis-guided assumptions about the role of Division 1 athletics in a great research university.
Of the many assertions made by Mr. Cunningham, for now I would like to address one, his justifying the limited involvement of revenue sports athletes in the broader life of the university. He drew an inaccurate analogy between a Daily Tar Heel reporter and an athlete to make his point. Mr. Cunningham’s error stems from a mis-reading or mis-understanding of the mission of UNC, to advance scholarship, research, and creativity and to teach a diverse community of students.
A legitimate criticism of Division 1 sports, especially the revenue sports of football and basketball, is that the demands of training, practice, and games make it virtually impossible for many, if not most, to engage in the diverse cultural and social life that is central to a college education.
Indeed, as the scandals have revealed, the demands on these athletes, sadly, too often make it difficult to engage in the core academic activities as well. How do the demands on athletes in the revenue sports advance the mission of UNC? I’d like somebody to explain that to me.
In stark contrast, the Daily Tar Heel reporter is fully immersed in the mission of the university, even if she or he takes classes only in the morning and works for the Tar Heel from noon until midnight. The mission of the Daily Tar Heel is to pursue all news of the University; to set the standard for the journalism industry; to serve as a learning laboratory for young journalists, etc.
Those fortunate enough to work for the Tar Heel develop skills that advance scholarship, research, and creativity. The same could be said for our students in the arts who can be found at all hours on the stage or in their performance studios.
I encourage Mr. Cunningham to speak with Don Oeler of the Chapel Hill Philarmonia, Emil Kang of Carolina Performing Arts or Joseph Haj of Playmakers about how their programs advance the mission of the university.