Cunningham Says UNC Working To ‘Move Forward’

Things just have not gotten easier for North Carolina and athletic director Bubba Cunningham.

The school spent another year dealing with off-field issues, from the eligibility of a top basketball player to a long-running academic scandal and now a reopened NCAA investigation. The Tar Heels also failed to win an Atlantic Coast Conference championship in any sport for the first time.

“We’re wrestling with some of the toughest issues you can wrestle with,” Cunningham said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s taxing on the faculty. It’s taxing on the faculty council. It’s taxing on the coaches, on the students in the classroom. It is something that as an institution, we have to figure out how we can move forward.”

UNC finished 14th in the 2013-14 Directors’ Cup standings of the nation’s top overall sports programs, the first time in six years and the fourth time in the competition’s 21 seasons that it failed to make the top 10. Cunningham pointed to ACC expansion and parity as factors in the title-less season.

“It’s not that the sky is falling,” he said, “but you do need to pay attention and see what we can do to improve performance.”

The highlight was women’s tennis finishing as NCAA runner-up, while men’s tennis reached the final eight, women’s basketball came within a game of the Final Four and field hockey reached the national semifinals. Football — led by Cunningham’s first major hire, Larry Fedora — regrouped from a 1-5 start to win a bowl game.

But much of Cunningham’s third season was spent dealing concerns outside the lines.

The school spent much of 2013 investigating violations by NBA prospect P.J. Hairston before deciding not to seek his reinstatement from the NCAA, ending his college career.

Scrutiny of academics for athletes increased in January when a former UNC learning specialist told CNN that the majority of football and basketball players she studied from 2004-12 read at below-grade levels, though three outside researchers later said the data did not support her findings.

The school also hired former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein to investigate the causes of fraud — first found in 2011 — in the formerly named African and Afro-American (AFAM) department featuring classes with significant athlete enrollments and dating to the 1990s.

Then, in June, former basketball player Rashad McCants from the 2005 NCAA championship team told ESPN that tutors wrote papers for him and coach Roy Williams knew he took some of the AFAM classes in question. Weeks later, the NCAA said it was reopening its probe into academic misconduct because new information was available.

“It certainly has taken longer than I anticipated,” Cunningham said. “In 2011 we all thought we had NCAA issues with agents and amateurism. 2012 is really when the academic challenges arose. In 2013 we had a chancellor leave … so we’ve had a year of transition.

“It has been a long time to see similar issues arise. Now we’re all hopeful that this final report that we’re doing (from Wainstein) … will bring closure to it.”

Cunningham and provost James W. Dean Jr. have also spent the past year leading a review of how UNC handles academics for athletes, from the admissions process to academic support programs and NCAA compliance education. It will last into the fall.

Along the way, UNC has put some facility projects to the side while dealing with everything else.

UNC is looking at updates for an aging Fetzer Field, home to the soccer, lacrosse and outdoor track programs. UNC is also mulling upgrades or even a replacement to the Smith Center, the 21,750-seat home to men’s basketball built in 1986. Both are still in planning stages.

“It’s not always going to be perfect,” Cunningham said. “I think what I have tried to bring to the department is a sense of calm, a sense of consistency that we are moving in a positive direction, that we do have a plan in how we can continue to improve and that we’re working together for a common goal: for these students to have an outstanding experience.”

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/cunningham-says-school-working-move-forward/

Cong. Price Co-Sponsors NCAA Transparency Bill

WASHINGTON — Two congressmen have introduced a bill to require the NCAA, schools, conferences as well as the College Football Playoff to reveal how much money is flowing through college sports.

David Price

David Price

The Standardization of Collegiate Oversight of Revenues and Expenditures (SCORE) Act would require the NCAA to make public a standardized financial report for itself and release similar information for schools that already report the data to the NCAA. It also would affect conferences and any entity hosting a postseason competition.

U.S. Rep. David Price, a North Carolina Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Tom Petri, a Wisconsin Republican, introduced the bill. In a statement Tuesday, Price said it would allow “for the first apples-to-apples comparison” of revenues and spending throughout college sports.

WCHL’s Aaron Keck spoke with Congressman Price Tuesday about the bill.

***Listen to the Interview***

http://chapelboro.com/sports/national-sports/cong-price-co-sponsors-ncaa-transparency-bill/

Emmert Says He Supports “Scholarships For Life”

WASHINGTON – NCAA President Mark Emmert told a Senate committee Wednesday he supports “scholarships for life” and other reforms in how athletes are treated, then did such a good job of casting himself as a powerless figurehead that one senator told him: “I can’t tell whether you’re in charge or whether you’re a minion.”

Emmert faced a skeptical Senate Commerce Committee and said he feels college sports “works extremely well for the vast majority” and that the overall current model of amateurism should be preserved.

But he listed several changes he’d like to see enacted.

In addition to the end of the standard year-to-year scholarships, he said scholarships should also cover the full cost of attending college, not just basics such as room and board.

He also called for better health, safety and insurance protocols and said universities must confront what he called the “national crisis” of sexual assault.

Emmert said such changes could come about if Division I schools decide to remake their decision-making structure in the coming weeks, giving more authority to the five biggest conferences.

He reiterated that the schools themselves are in charge of the rules and emphasized the challenge of creating a consensus among college presidents, coaches and athletic directors.

That led to sharp words from Sen. Claire McCaskill, who leveled the “minion” statement and added: “If you’re merely a monetary pass-through, why should you even exist?”

The Missouri Democrat was particularly concerned with research that showed a significant percentage of universities allow athletic departments to handle sexual assault investigations of athletes.

Emmert said he was “equally surprised and dismayed by” McCaskill’s numbers and that he would work to put an end to the apparent conflict of interest.

The hearing came as the NCAA faces pressure from multiple fronts to reform how athletes are treated and compensated.

The organization is awaiting a judge’s ruling following a three-week trial in Oakland, California, in which former UCLA basketball star Ed O’Bannon and others are seeking a share of revenues from the use of their names, images and likenesses in broadcasts and videogames.

Also, former Northwestern quarterback Kain Colter is leading a push to form the first union for college athletes.

Emmert testified in the O’Bannon trial, where he opposed any effort to pay players because it would destroy the bedrock of amateurism on which college sports is based.

There have been moves, however, to pay more attention to the athlete’s concerns. Emmert noted that multiyear scholarships were recently reinstated after being banned for close to four decades. The Big Ten last month came out in support of guaranteed four-year scholarships and improved medical coverage for athletes.

Also testifying was former University of North Carolina football player Devon Ramsay, who spoke of the red tape he had to endure to clear his name after allegations of plagiarism. UNC has been dealing with a long-running academics and athletics scandal, and Ramsay said he came to the conclusion that the school “was more concerned with penalties and losses of scholarships than protecting one of its own.”

Ramsay also called for mandatory summer internships that would help prepare athletes for future careers. He said it’s “almost impossible” to complete an internship at a competitive football school because of the time demands made by coaches.

“The NCAA as an institution no longer protects the student athlete,” Ramsay said. “They are more concerned with signage and profit margins.”

Committee chairman Jay Rockefeller also took the bigger view, questioning whether the amateur model is sustainable. He told Emmert: “I think I am just very skeptical that the NCAA can ever live up to the lofty mission that you constantly talk about.”

“I don’t see how a multibillion dollar commercial enterprise can merely be an amateur pursuit,” the West Virginia Democrat said. “I don’t see how the NCAA will ever be capable of truly making a safe, quality educational experience for students their No. 1 priority.”

Rockefeller said he doesn’t plan to drop the issue. He dropped veiled threats of using subpoena power and the committee’s special investigation unit should the Democrats retain control of the Senate and the NCAA not move forward with reforms.

Near the end of the hearing, which lasted just under three hours, Rockefeller said too much of the hearing was conducted in “self-protection mode.”

“My real feeling from this hearing,” Rockefeller said, “is that we haven’t accomplished much.”

Emmert declined an invitation from Rockefeller to make a concluding statement. After the hearing, Emmert deflected questions from reporters while being led to a freight elevator to leave the building.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/collegiate/emmert-says-supports-scholarships-life/

McCants ‘Awaiting Big Pay Day’ From UNC, NCAA

Rashad McCants won’t answer whether he’ll speak with UNC or investigators, but he says the University and the NCAA are prepared to pay him more than $300 million.

The former UNC basketball standout appeared on SiriusXM satellite radio this week saying the NCAA is writing him a check for more than $300 million to help build sports education programs across the country. He said UNC is writing him a check for $10 million for exploiting him while he was on the men’s basketball team and for the lack of education he received.

The more McCants speaks, the less his story seems to be told. This is the fourth time he has spoken out nationally since his first interview on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”. In that interview, he said that tutors wrote papers for him and he remained eligible only because of “paper classes” that required no attendance – and that his coaches, including head coach Roy Williams, were fully aware of what was going on. He returned to ESPN June 11 with little new information after Williams was interviewed saying he can’t believe what his former player said was taking place.

McCants’ credibility has been called into question since he went behind the mic in June. In a 2004 interview with WRAL, he compared life as a college athlete to being in jail, which he said was originally his uncle’s thought. McCants said, “Once you get out of jail, you’re free. (I’m) in my sentence, and I’m doing my time.” He said he went to class, did all his work, and went to practice and that being a part of that program kept him from doing some of the things non-athletes were able to do in college like vacationing during Fall Break.

He appeared a week later in a press conference with head coach Roy Williams. McCants explained that he was attempting to show how regimented the program was and that he was misunderstood.

Williams shared how angry he was in that press conference saying he told McCants to leave the next practice as soon as he got there. He said he told him, “there (is) a big difference in playing college basketball and being in jail. Like the game Monopoly, I told him I could just give him a ‘Get out of jail free’ card and he could leave.” Williams said he later watched the full ten-minute interview and better understood what he was trying to say. McCants was allowed to come back to practice, and Williams said he didn’t have any other problems with him.

Former Assistant Attorney General for National Security and Homeland Security Advisor, Kenneth Wainstein is conducting an independent external review of UNC’s academic irregularities. He said he reached out to McCants in May requesting an interview. That request was denied, and since McCants’ appearance on ESPN, Wainstein said he has sent another request hoping he is now willing to speak.

The NCAA announced late last month that it has reopened its 2011 investigation into the University. In a statement, athletic director Bubba Cunningham said, “the NCAA has determined that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might now be willing to speak with the enforcement staff.”

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/mccants-awaiting-big-pay-day-unc-ncaa/

Devon Ramsay To Testify In D.C.

A former UNC football player will testify Wednesday during a U.S. Senate committee hearing which is meant to check on the well-being of college athletes.

The News and Observer reports that Devon Ramsay, a fullback who graduated from UNC in 2012, is schedule to testify, along with a former Florida State football player and Rhodes Scholar, Myron Rolle, NCAA President Mark Emmert, civil rights historian and journalist, Taylor Branch, and Richard Southall—who previously led the College Sports Research Institute at UNC and now works at the University of South Carolina. Southall is also listed on former UNC academic advisor Mary Willingham’s research that led to the most recent chapter of the academic scandal at Carolina.

Ramsay was declared ineligible by the NCAA for the 2010 season after finding he received improper financial benefits from agents and improper help form a tutor. However, further investigation found that Ramsay didn’t receive any financial benefits and he only received help on a draft of a paper in which he was given suggestions on how to improve areas of the work.

He returned to the football field the next season for one game, in which he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee in the season-opening victory against James Madison. He was given an additional year of eligibility in 2012, but the knee injury was career-ending.

Mary Willingham was in Washington, D.C. last week to speak with members of congress. However, she told WCHL that she did not have any hearings scheduled yet, and she does not appear on any witness lists at this time.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation will start its hearing at 2:30 p.m. For more on the hearing, click here.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/national-sports/devon-ramsay-testify-d-c/

Willingham Sues UNC, Asks For Reinstatement

Originally posted 11:10 a.m., July 1, 2014

Former UNC academic adviser Mary Willingham says she has filed a civil lawsuit against the University and asked the university system’s governing board to reinstate her.

Willingham is known as the whistle blower who told CNN in January that UNC admitted athletes who were not academically eligible, and that, in turn, the University is unjustly using athletes for financial gains. She says now that the NCAA has decided to return to campus, she doesn’t want it to hand out further punishment, but instead to use the opportunity to “reform the entire system.”

Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs at UNC, Joel Curran said, “The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is aware of the lawsuit filed by former employee Mary Willingham. We respect the right of any current or former employee to speak out on important University and national issues. We believe the facts will demonstrate that Ms. Willingham was treated fairly and appropriately while she was employed at Carolina.”

Willingham told WRAL’s Julia Sims that she has asked to be reinstated by the Board of Governors. In early May, she shared on her website that she had resigned from UNC. She first said she made the decision to leave on April 21 after an hour-long meeting with Chancellor Carol Folt. She said the conversation made her realize there was no more she could do at UNC and that she wanted to continue her fight to correct problems with intercollegiate athletics elsewhere.

Now Willingham says she believes “the NCAA will need some serious help from our historians at UNC (since so many years have passed).”

The NCAA told the University Monday that it has reopened its 2011 investigation that led to punishments handed out to the UNC football team. The team was put on probation until 2015, stripped of 15 scholarships over a three-year period, and ineligible for postseason play for one season.

The intercollegiate association says it reopened the investigation because people who were previously unwilling to speak with them may now be available.

One of those people is former UNC basketball standout Rashad McCants. He told ESPN’s Outside the Lines in early June that tutors wrote papers for him, he remained eligible only because of phony “paper classes”, and that his coaches, including Roy Williams, were fully aware of what was going on.

Former assistant attorney general for national security and partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Kenneth Wainstein was hired by the University in January to conduct an external review of any and all academic irregularities. In an update of his investigation given to the Board of Governors on June 20, Wainstein said McCants previously declined to be interview. He said, since the ESPN interviews, another request for an interview has been sent to McCants in hopes that he’s now willing to speak.

Wainstein has also been able to speak with Julius Nyang’oro, the former chair of the African and Afro-American Studies department and his department administrator, Deborah Crowder in his review. Those individuals were quiet during the NCAA’s initial investigation and all other inquiries until Wainstein arrived on campus.

Willingham told WCHL that she and UNC history professor Jay Smith are filing their manuscript with their publisher Tuesday morning before she travels to Washington, D.C. There she says she plans to lobby for athletic reform with meetings scheduled all day Wednesday. She says she doesn’t have any hearings scheduled in D.C. at this time.

The book Smith and Willingham are collaborating on is about the history of the academic scandal at UNC in the African and Afro-American studies department and the illiteracy problems at UNC and at colleges and universities across the nation.

http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/willingham-sues-unc-asks-reinstatement/

UNC Men’s Tennis, Women’s Lax Advance In NCAAs

The UNC men’s tennis team beat South Carolina 4-1 on Sunday in Chapel Hill to move on to the NCAA Sweet 16.

With the win, the Tar Heels improved to 26-5 on the year, breaking the all-time team record for wins in a season set back in 1992 and tied in 2006. This marks Carolina’s eighth appearance in the Sweet Sixteen.

The seventh-ranked Tar Heels now head to Athens, Georgia, where they’ll face No. 8 Georgia on Friday at 4:00 p.m. The tenth-seeded Bulldogs are the host school for the rest of the tournament; they knocked UNC out of the tournament in 2012, the last time Carolina reached the Sweet Sixteen.

Elsewhere, the third-seeded UNC women’s lacrosse team advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals with a 10-8 win over Georgetown on Sunday at Fetzer Field. Abbey Friend scored four goals to lead the way; she now has 195 goals in her career, surpassing the old school record of 192 set by Corey Donohoe.

Carolina will face Virginia in the quarterfinals next Saturday, also at Fetzer Field. The No. 11 Cavaliers reached the quarters with a 13-11 win over Princeton on Sunday.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-mens-tennis-womens-lax-advance-ncaas/

Big Time College Sports: Fairness, Compensation, Unionization and Ramen Noodles

“Kelly, you don’t go to bed hungry, do you?” UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham jokes with senior UNC women’s soccer player Kelly McFarlane.

***Listen to the story***

The banter was revolving around the new NCAA food policy that is set to allow student-athletes unlimited access to meals.

Cunningham says this will take away an invaluable aspect of the college experience.

“You wouldn’t have a real college experience if you don’t have to boil Ramen noodles at some point. Every college student has to do that,” Cunningham says.

But all jokes aside, Cunningham says he’s worried about the feasibility of allowing schools to provide an unlimited meal plan for their student-athletes. He says he thought the policy opens up the possibility of over-the-top midnight buffets and excessive snacking.

Cunningham also worries that only the elite athletic programs will be able to foot the $1.5 million bill for providing their players unlimited food access.

UNC Associate Professor Lew Margolis takes issue with the very term “student-athlete”.

“It’s a fabrication of the 1950’s. It was created so that universities would not have to meet obligations to athletes who sustained serious, or in some cases, life-changing injuries. I think that history and our misuse of the term ‘student-athlete’ is why students at Northwestern and elsewhere were motivated to look into a union,” Margolis says.

Photo courtesy of Susan Murray

Photo courtesy of Susan Murray

In contrast, Cunningham says he embraces the term, saying the “student” part of the word takes precedence.

“I think the primary role of a student-athlete is to be a student. Participation in sport is something that I value and think adds an awful lot to their experience, but I do not think they should be considered employees,” Cunningham says.

The ‘employee’ debate has given rise to a tide of support for the potential unionization of players at the college level. In fact, at private Northwestern University, football players are taking a vote on whether or not to form a union.

McFarlane stops short of calling her play on the soccer field a job, but she does say the immense time commitment disallows her from seeking part-time employment.

“In terms of the time it takes, we refer to it like it’s a job. It’s not like I have time to get another job or something like that,” McFarlane says.

Bubba Cunningham (Susan Murray)

Bubba Cunningham (Susan Murray)

Dr. Deborah Stroman, a faculty member in the UNC Exercise and Sport Science department, says she has mixed feelings concerning the potential for college player unions.

“It’s very, very complex to have a union – everything from the compensation and taking an 18-year old and having them go to union meetings. I’m excited for the students. I know they’re excited and learning a lot. But I think they’re all going to be cautious when they really understand what it means to have a union,” Stroman says.

The hour-long roundtable could have extended on for the entirety of the afternoon, but the rising question at Chapel Hill and around the nation concerning high-level college sports was brilliantly posed by Margolis.

“In the interest of fairness, individuals should be compensated according to the talent they provide. Is it fair for them to not benefit beyond the scholarship? Now billions of dollars are being generated by the talents of football and basketball players. Is that fair? To me, it’s a fundamental question of fairness,” Margolis says.

http://chapelboro.com/news/2014-community-forum/big-time-college-sports-fairness-compensation-unionization-ramen-noodles/

Carolina MBB Holding Steady at No. 19, Women Stay in Top Ten

CHAPEL HILL– Carolina men’s basketball remains locked in at No. 19 in the latest AP poll released Monday.

Following the Tar Heels’ sloppy win against Northern Kentucky, there was no upward movement for the 9-3 squad nationally.

Arizona remains the top-ranked team in the AP rankings, but undefeated ACC representative Syracuse cut into the Wildcat lead by receiving five first-place votes from the 65-member national media panel.

The Duke Blue Devils, sporting a 10-2 record, slid up a couple spots to No. 7 this week after their 82-59 win against Eastern Michigan.

Florida State again just missed out on entering the rankings, receiving 24 votes.

And as for the women, the Tar Heels are again holding steady at No. 10 in the AP poll with their 11-2 record. Duke sits at No. 3 in the rankings with a 12-1 mark on the season while undefeated Connecticut unanimously sits atop the lineup, receiving all 36 first-place votes.

View the complete men’s basketball rankings here.

View the complete women’s basketball rankings here.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-mbb-holding-steady-19-women-stay-top-ten/

P.J. Hairston’s Carolina Playing Days Over as UNC Decides Not To Apply For His Reinstatement

CHAPEL HILL–UNC-Chapel Hill will not seek reinstatement from the NCAA for Carolina basketball’s junior guard P.J. Hairston.

Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham says the University made its decision Tuesday, and he notified Hairston Wednesday.

“Unfortunately P.J. made a number of mistakes that placed his eligibility at risk and the University’s joint review with the NCAA made it clear that seeking reinstatement for P.J. would not be possible. The University thanks him for his contributions to Carolina Basketball,” Cunningham says.

Hairston already sat out the first 10 games of the season, but now his Carolina basketball playing days are officially over.

“We also want to thank Coach Williams for the way in which he has held the team together over the early stages of this season despite not having two veteran players and for the level of care and concern he has for the young men on his team. We are glad that Leslie McDonald was reinstated and look forward to watching his Tar Heel teammates and him compete the rest of this season,” Cunningham says.

Head Coach Roy Williams was in a somber mood Friday for his weekly press conference initially scheduled to talk about the Davidson game Saturday. But the vast majority of questions centered on the breaking news of Hairston’s situation.

***Listen to Coach Williams on Hairston***

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“I am extremely disappointed for P.J., his family and our team as he will no longer be playing basketball at North Carolina. P.J. made mistakes and I was very disappointed by his actions and now he is suffering the very difficult consequences. He is not a bad kid; he just made some mistakes,” Coach Williams says.

Coach Williams says he was a bit surprised by the ultimate decision by the University and had little say in the matter. But he says he will continue to support the Greensboro native as he chooses his next steps.

“P.J. has learned from this experience and will continue to grow as a player and adult. I will support him and help him as much as I possibly can as he enters this next phase of his life and basketball career,” Coach Williams says.

Hairston scored 707 points and nailed down 127 three-pointers in 71 games as a Tar Heel. Last year, he led UNC in scoring at 14.6 points per game and made 89 threes, the second-most in Carolina single-season history.

“We all wish this had turned out differently for P.J. and the University. We first learned of this situation back in the summer and getting to this point took a great deal of time because the University, the NCAA and P.J.’s family took great care to learn as many of the facts as were possible to learn. I know everyone, from P.J. and his family, to the basketball team, our fans and the media, wanted this process to play out faster than it did. However, it took the time that was necessary and ultimately came to this difficult conclusion,” Cunningham says.

 

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/p-j-hairstons-carolina-playing-days-unc-decides-apply-reinstatement/