Chansky’s Notebook: Planetary Response

This is today’s Art Chansky’s Sports Notebook as heard on 97.9 WCHL. You can listen to previous Sports Notebooks here.

Earth to Jay and Mary.

Well, I see that Jay Smith and Mary Willingham used my column on Sylvia Hatchell as another excuse to rehash the entire academic scandal on their website, which has about as many readers as their convoluted tell-all book. They claim I say Sylvia should leave with grace because I am in a plot with Roy Williams, Larry Fedora and the rest of the athletic administration to turn the attention away from men’s basketball and football.

Well, Earth to Jay and Mary. Did you bother reading the rest of the column past the truth that women’s basketball is likely to get hit by the NCAA harder than any other program? All the experts who have studied the NOA in its detailed entirety have come to the same conclusion. But there are two other major reasons I believe Hatchell’s tenure at UNC will end sooner than later. One is using her friends to speak out against not getting a contract extension from Bubba Cunningham, and the other is that women’s basketball spends and loses way too much money.

Hatchell has three more years left on her lucrative long-term deal, foolishly given to her by Dick Baddour on his way out the door as AD. And she is in the cross hairs of the NCAA probe, much more so than Williams and Fedora, despite what Jay and Mary would have you believe. She does not deserve, or frankly need, an extension right now, and should have worked behind the scenes trying to convince Bubba otherwise. And if she failed, she still could have gone out with grace.

There is no way any program will be allowed to lose $2.5 million moving forward. That is fiscally irresponsible, and Cunningham’s job is to fix it. Hatchell’s program also has the highest cost-per-athlete among all woman sports. Taking the fight public and any NCAA sanctions will only hasten her departure.

Jay and Mary believe there was an 18-year covert scheme to keep athletes eligible here, and in propagating that ridiculous theory continue to demonstrate how little they know about major Division 1 athletics, and a minute percentage of underprepared recruits that every school admits to stay competitive. Did Carolina cross some lines that it will pay dearly for when the NCAA metes out penalties? Yes. But is it as widespread and anywhere close to the story they have spun that has done major damage to a great university’s brand and reputation? It’s not about the truth anymore for them. It’s far more about winning their argument.

Chansky: The Fed-Up Factor

Frankly, who could blame Roy Williams if he got so fed up that he quit after the season?

Fans who are quick to criticize Ol’ Roy and those inside the university who have made his job harder and his life miserable ought to think about that.

royWhere would UNC be if another casualty of the three-year scandal was losing its Hall of Fame coach who is as sensitive as he is hard-nosed? He has enough problems with a 10-6 basketball team whose talent level is lower than in any other of his previous 10 seasons at Carolina, with no apparent pros on the roster.

It is conjecture, but how the P.J. Hairston story unraveled sure looks like Williams took one for the team in the decision to bounce his leading scorer for good. Both Williams and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham had said publicly that they expected Hairston back sometime this season, but they could no longer fight the mounting evidence.

After the announcement that UNC would not apply for Hairston’s reinstatement, Roy said he could understand the various points of view. And P.J.’s family expressed displeasure with the university’s decision. Both of those reactions would support the theory that it was not merely the NCAA’s call.

A more plausible explanation is that Hairston was heading for a substantial suspension until more damning evidence came to light while the UNC Board of Governors kept pushing for a stronger stand to demonstrate it was getting tough on athletics. So it looked like a Carolina basketball player was thrown out of the program for the first time in more than 50 years.

Then, of course, came the regrettable hyperbole by UNC learning specialist Mary Willingham that one of Williams’ players could not read or write. While most Tar Heel athletes are not Rhodes Scholar candidates, one of them being completely illiterate seems patently impossible. UNC admissions director Steve Farmer said as much.

On most campuses, there is a segment of the faculty that is either over-protective of the academic mission or anti-athletics, or both. At UNC, that segment has a louder voice than at many schools playing Division I sports, perhaps because former Athletic Director Dick Baddour came from the faculty side and did not do much to control the volume.

A constant push-pull between admissions and athletics does little to underscore the fact that big-time college sports is really a self-sustaining corporation that, in UNC’s case, balances a $75 million budget without financial help from the university. In fact, athletics often sends money across the street to South Building.

In its worst iteration, such an ongoing conflict can chase coaches away. That is NOT what UNC wants to do with Williams and Larry Fedora, whose high-profile programs are seen as the front porch of the university that help fund-raising, the applicant pool and branding through national exposure to the largest subculture in America.

When Willingham and faculty members like Jay Smith, who apparently have been concerned for years, take their cases to the regional and national media instead of trying to affect change from within, the question of motive arises.

Willingham supposedly gets off on being “ranked” on several whistle-blower websites. And Smith seems to like the role as ad-hoc spokesman for the faculty, appearing on sports talk shows and as one of the first sources the media contacts. Now he says he’s writing a book.

At the heart of this matter is the small percentage of “less prepared” athletes who are mostly black male football and basketball players. All schools who want to compete at the highest level in those sports must take some of these special admits.

And it seems logical they would be drawn to African-American history, like Jewish students take courses at the Center for Jewish Studies, musicians major in music, burgeoning actors take drama classes. It is their heritage, so why not study it?

What is wrong with admitting these kids, most of whom are being given the chance of a lifetime and come from communities that help them become great athletes but do not prepare them for college? Where would they go if they never received college scholarships? Probably nowhere.

There are likely as many 4.0 students who don’t graduate as these less-prepared kids who might have undiscovered learning disabilities or who just test poorly. With the proper help, they can improve their lives dramatically by getting athletic scholarships. A few will become pro athletes, but others will benefit from the socialization they receive on campus and make alumni contacts that could lead to good jobs when they get out of school. Some may even go back to their communities and help the next generation of kids get better prepared for college.

Isn’t that a mission of a state university?

So what do we have here? Some academic procedures and principles that were violated and have since been corrected. And a continuing controversy that the national press has jumped all over to report on issues they really know very little about. Mostly, a prevailing feeling that the story will never end and keep hurting our reputation and attempts to move beyond it.

Photo by Todd Melet

Photo by Todd Melet

About this time in Roy Williams’ 15-year tenure at Kansas, he had some problems with an administration that had turned over. It led him to break his pledge to remain at KU and eventually come back to UNC, where he has had even more success as a coach than he did in Lawrence.

At 63, he is unlikely to go to another school or an NBA team. But with grandchildren he adores, more money saved up than he could ever spend and on-again, off-again health issues, Williams could reach the point where he feels under-appreciated and decides to walk away.

A long shot, probably, but a scenario worth thinking about for some people who are letting ego, grandstanding or their prejudices toward athletics and athletes dictate some destructive actions.

Letter to all UNC faculty about Paul Frampton

As most of you know, Paul Frampton, the Louis D. Rubin Jr. Distinguished Professor of Physics and Astronomy at UNC, has been in prison in Argentina since January 23, 2012 on drug charges.

As more information about his case becomes available, such as the July 22 article in the Argentine newspaper Clarin, it becomes more and more obvious that Paul was the innocent, although very gullible, victim of a scam.

Paul left the U.S. in January, believing that his one scheduled Spring class, a graduate course with just one enrolled student, would be canceled because of failure to meet the minimum enrollment requirement. He was expecting to return within a few days with a woman he was to meet in Bolivia. Since he expected to be away only a short time, he left his car parked at RDU airport.

On February 17, 2012 the Provost, Bruce Carney, sent Paul a letter informing him that his salary would be stopped until he could reassume his duties as a faculty member. Paul has hired a Chapel Hill lawyer, Barry Nakell, to help him get his salary back. Several days ago Paul told one of us that he expects to run out of money roughly by September. He has been in prison 192 days and
has no idea when his trial will actually occur. He has published six refereed journal articles since the beginning of 2012, and continues to supervise his two PhD students by phone.

We are writing to express our strong objections to UNC’s decision to stop Paul’s salary, and to alert the faculty to actions taken by the University that we believe should be of great concern to all UNC faculty.

The first and main objection is that, in view of Paul’s over thirty years of distinguished service to this University, and considering his present circumstances in Argentina, the decision to stop his salary is inhumane. Without his salary, Paul is unable to hire a private lawyer to defend himself.

His current lawyer is a public defender with a large caseload. Paul also needs money to buy himself decent food at the prison. Given the slowness and complexity of the Argentine legal system and the great difficulty of finding any way to influence the progress of Paul’s case, paying Paul is perhaps the only way UNC can effectively help him. By not paying him, and thereby directly interfering
with his ability to properly defend and properly feed himself, the University is taking an action that may ultimately cause him grave harm. He is 68, an asthmatic, and has had pulmonary problems.

We also object to the manner in which Paul’s salary was suspended. Our intention here is not to present a legal case, but, to give one example, we call your attention to Chapter VI, section 603, of the Code of the University of North Carolina:

“The chief academic officer of the institution, however titled, shall send the faculty member a written notice of intention to discharge the faculty member or impose a serious sanction together with a written specification of the reasons. The notice and specification of reasons shall be sent by a method of mail or delivery that requires a signature for delivery. The statement shall include
notice of the faculty member’s right, upon request, to a hearing by an elected standing faculty committee on hearings.”

The February 17, 2012 letter in which the Provost notified Paul of the suspension of his salary failed to inform Paul of his right to a hearing, and there has been no hearing as stipulated in the Code. The Board of Trustees, the Chancellor, and Provost were informed about this omission in a letter dictated on the phone by Paul to one of us and emailed on July 23, 2012. In his February 17
letter to Paul, the Provost did not of course choose a phrasing of the following sort: “We hereby impose upon you the serious sanction of suspending your salary”. Instead, he chose the gentler phrasing: “Unfortunately, in consultation with Chancellor Thorp and President Ross, I must inform you that your absence from your duties requires you to take personal leave, which means that
after your salary payment on February 29, your salary will cease until such time as you are able to reassume your duties as a faculty member.”

Paul certainly has not taken a voluntary leave of absence. An important protection of our tenure system specifies that even where suspension is necessary, suspension shall be with full pay. By imposing a personal leave on Paul, the University is undermining this protection. No university should be able to stop a tenured faculty member’s pay simply by declaring him to be on personal leave, even over his objection.

Finally, we call your attention to the University’s more recent decision not to pay Paul his summer salary. This salary comes from a Department of Energy grant, and this decision was made by UNC in discussions with the DOE. Like many faculty Paul has no courses to teach or other duties that require his presence at UNC during the summer, and physicists often spend summers doing research far from their home campuses. It is well-established that Paul has continued to publish papers from prison and to supervise his students. So the argument of “absence from your duties” cited in the Provost’s letter clearly does not apply here.

We are all capable of making mistakes that can cause trouble serious enough to prevent us from performing all or part of our University duties for a time. Imagine that this happens to you after you have taught for years at UNC as a tenured faculty member. Given the precedent being set by the Frampton case, heaven help you.

If you share our concern and wish to add your name to this letter, a copy of which will be transmitted to the Chancellor and to the Provost, please let us know at

Additional information about Paul’s case and documents related to this letter are available on the webpage:


-Mark Williams, Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Hugon Karwowski, Professor of Physics, UNC
-Jack Griffith, Kenan Professor, Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, UNC
-Gabriel Karl, University Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph, Canada, FRSC
-Patrick Eberlein, Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Marcelo Ubriaco, Professor of Physics, University of Puerto Rico
-Sheldon Glashow, Higgins Professor of Physics Emeritus, Harvard University
-Arthur G.B. Metcalf Professor of Science and Mathematics, Boston University (Nobel Laureate)
-Karl Petersen, Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-C.K.R.T. Jones, Bill Guthridge Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Gregory Forest, Grant Dahlstrom Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Shrawan Kumar, J. R. and L. S. Parker Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Alfred T. Goshaw, James B. Duke Professor of Physics, Duke University
-Eugen Merzbacher, Kenan Professor of Physics Emeritus, UNC
-Christian Iliadis, Professor of Physics, UNC
-James L. Peacock III, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, UNC
-Joseph F. Plante, Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., Kenan Professor of Computer Science, UNC
-Roberto Camassa, Kenan Distinguished Professor of Mathematics, UNC
-Frank Avignone, Carolina Endowed Professor of Physics and Astronomy, USC
-Julia T. Wood, Lineberger Professor of Humanities Emerita and Royster Professor Emerita, Communication Studies, UNC
-Don Ellison, Professor of Physics, N.C. State
-J. Ross Macdonald, Kenan Professor of Physics Emeritus, UNC
-Fred Myhrer, Professor of Physics, USC
-Robert Scherrer, Professor of Physics and Department Chair, Vanderbilt
-Frank Tsui, Professor of Physics, UNC
-David Tanner, Distinguished Professor of Physics, University of Florida
-Valerie Lambert, Associate Professor of Anthropology, UNC
-Michael Rubinstein, John P. Barker Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, UNC
-Marshall Edgell, Kenan Professor of Microbiology and Immunology Emeritus, UNC
-Brian Stabler, Professor of Psychiatry, Emeritus, School of Medicine, UNC
-Charles M. van der Horst, Professor of Medicine, UNC
-Lishan Su, Professor of Immunology, UNC
-Amy Shaheen, Clinical Associate Professor, School of Medicine, UNC
-Steven L. Young, Associate Professor, Dept of Obstetrics and Gynecology, School of Medicine, UNC
-Amy K. Motl, Assistant Professor of Medicine, UNC Kidney Center, School of Medicine,UNC
-Randall Hendrick, Professor of Linguistics, UNC
-Jay M. Smith, Professor of History and Associate Chair, UNC
-Robert G. Dennis, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, UNC
-Andrew Myron Johnson, Professor of Pediatrics, Emeritus, UNC
-Lawrence I. Gilbert, Kenan Professor of Biology Emeritus, UNC.
-Klaus M. Hahn, Thurman Distinguished Professor of Pharmacology, UNC
-Edward L. Chaney, Professor Emeritus, Department of Radiation Oncology, UNC
-David Mora Marn, Associate Professor, Linguistics, UNC
-Stephen V. Frye, Ph.D., Fred Eshelman Distinguished Professor, Division of Chemical Biology
and Medicinal Chemistry, and Director, Center for Integrative Chemical Biology and Drug Discovery, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, UNC
-Misha Becker, Associate Professor of Linguistics, UNC
-Stanley W. Black, Georges Lurcy Professor of Economics, Emeritus, UNC
-Marianne Gingher, Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor of English and Creative Writing, UNC
-Rita O’Sullivan, Associate Professor, School of Education, UNC
-Ofri Leitner, Certified Genetic Counselor, Clinical Assistant Professor of Genetics,UNC Cancer and Adult Genetics, UNC
-Tom Reinert, Associate Professor, English Department, UNC
-Edward T. Samulski, Cary C Boshamer Professor of Chemistry, UNC
-Amarjit Budhiraja, Professor, Department of Statistics and Operations Research, UNC
-Gregory W. Brown, Sarah Graham Kenan Distinguished Scholar of Finance, Kenan-Flagler Business School, UNC
-T. Gary Bishop, Professor of Computer Science, UNC
-Marc Lange, Theda Perdue Distinguished Professor, Philosophy Department Chair, UNC
-Gary W. Marks, Chair in Multilevel Governance, VU Amsterdam, Burton Craige Distinguished Professor of Political Science, UNC
-Maria Servedio, Associate Professor, Department of Biology, UNC
-Ana C. G. Felix, Assistant Professor, Neurology Clerkship Director, Department of Neurology, UNC
-Keith Burridge, Kenan Professor Cell and Developmental Biology, and Lineberger Comprehensive
Cancer Center, UNC

(sent August 1, 2012 to members of the UNC faculty)

Shut Up And Teach

A few years ago, Dick Baddour returned from a national faculty meeting where he received widespread praise from other schools for how much the UNC faculty loved the affable Carolina athletic director.
Some of those other professors did not get along so well with their athletic departments. Baddour was held up as a model of how the faculty should have a voice about athletics on campus.  At most other schools, athletic directors don’t come from the faculty and have no problem marching across campus to say “button it up” if someone speaks publicly out of turn.
That’s the problem. At UNC, the faculty has long had too much of a voice on athletics. Although there is always a natural adversarial relationship between those who teach and make six figures and those who coach and make seven figures, the faculty at Carolina (in general) has never really gotten the point.
The athletic department is a self-sustaining business, a private ad-hoc corporation, that generates multi-millions in revenues and disperses pretty much the same amount (with a little held in reserve) to balance the budget that pays coaches and staff, funds scholarships and improves facilities in the so-called arms race.
During the recent and ongoing football scandal, I have been branded as an anti-football faculty apologist who helped get Butch Davis fired. Neither is even close to the truth. I’m not a faculty member or apologist (you should have seen my GPA at UNC!), and nobody got Butch Davis fired but Butch Davis.
I do support Holden Thorp and how he handled a very difficult situation that he had no earthly idea would fall into his lap when Erskine Bowles asked him to be the next Chancellor in 2008. Thorp withstood all kinds of pressure, from within and without, took a crash course in college athletics and made choices that created short-term publicity burn but were best for the long run at UNC.
Now, Thorp would be well-advised to try to put some kind of muzzle on the faculty, although he certainly does it at his own peril. A story on, by celebrated sportswriter Pat Forde, is an example of how Carolina is getting very low grades in damage control and managing its own PR during the football disaster.
Sue Estroff, a 30-year tenured professor who was quoted frequently during her days as the Faculty Chair, and history professor Jay Smith might have been speaking the painful truth in the Yahoo column. But who are they to be spokespersons for UNC during such treacherous times?  Who appointed them faculty mouthpieces to make a bad situation worse? Smith started when the New York Times’ Joe Nocera showed up on campus and his inflammatory email is the centerpiece of the Forde column.
(I quote Smith’s email that was published by Yahoo with the understanding that I, too, may be making a bad situation worse, but nevertheless to prove a point).

“Of course it’s academic fraud,” Smith wrote. “And it’s a form of fraud that was designed (by whom we can’t say yet) to keep athletes eligible, making plausible ‘progress toward the degree.’ I don’t blame the athletes – and that’s important to make clear. Many of us feel this way. It’s not the athletes’ fault that they’re often being shepherded through a bogus course of study, and are also made to pay the piper if they fall short of some measure invented by the NCAA.

“It’s the system that’s corrupt, and it’s the adults who benefit from the system – starting with school administrators and faculty – who have to have the gumption to live up to their moral obligations and say enough is enough.”

“To me the worst damage has come, and continues to come, from the university’s defensive and less-than-forthcoming reaction to the entire story,” Smith wrote in his email. “The university very much looks like it’s trying to hide something. An objective outsider could reach no other conclusion. That does not reflect well on any of us. In fact, it’s embarrassing.”

And then Smith fired the shot that is sure to be sending Tar Heels into rage from the Smith Center to the alumni hinterlands.
“I think it’s high time for all of us to know the full extent of the fraudulent behavior,” Smith wrote. “Were members of the 2009 and 2005 national championship (basketball) teams also beneficiaries of the AFAM/AFRI scam? I for one see no reason to assume that they were not. If the university wants to prove they were not, the whole world is listening.”

Estroff, a professor of social medicine, spoke out like she did in the past on far more benign athletic matters, such as how much money was being spent to send the football team to a bowl game. That was tame compared to this.
“It’s demoralizing,” said Estroff.  “It’s dumbfounding. It’s embarrassing. It’s maddening. What else can I say? It’s not what anybody wanted. It belongs to all of us, and you can’t put it in just one place. It’s impossible to defend, nor should we try.”
Added Estroff: “I would like to have seen a more robust, more forceful response. But there’s a reason I’m not a university president or chancellor. I don’t have that skill set.”
Every scintilla of what Smith and Estroff say may be (and probably is) true. But that’s why we have Nancy Davis, Mike McFarland and Karen Moon in the general administration, and Steve Kirschner in athletics who often makes the right suggestions on what to say but isn’t always heard as much as he should be.
They, together with Thorp and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham, need to be the people who shape the message and decide who delivers it and how. Not when some cagey columnist shows up and hunts down the usual suspects whose job it is to be heard in the classroom. Period.
The faculty should certainly have a say. That’s why they have department meetings and the ear of the Chancellor. But, when it comes to athletic controversy, especially the measure of what we have now, the faculty needs to stay out of the public forum, shut up and teach. Now that we have the right people in place at the athletic department, it’s their job to speak with one voice and help get us out of the mess as best they can.