From Ball Room To Ball Court At The Battle 4 Atlantis

Well, day one of the Battle 4 Atlantis is in the books, and it’s been an exciting one. The Tar Heels lost, of course, but they weren’t the only upset victim of the day: in fact three of today’s four games ended with the underdog on top, so the “losers” bracket for the rest of the week is going to look a lot like the “winners” bracket was supposed to look. Of course that’s partly because the “underdogs” at this tournament are no slouches either: Oklahoma, Georgetown and Butler are all pretty good.

But with all the excitement and all these high-profile teams running around, it’s easy to miss the fact that all of this is taking place in a pretty small facility. The Atlantis resort in general is huge – you could walk around for an hour (like I did) and still not even begin to see everything – but the tournament itself is something else entirely. It’s taking place in something called the “Imperial Arena” – but this is the only week it goes by that name. Its real name is the Imperial Ballroom.

Yep – the entire Battle 4 Atlantis is taking place in a ballroom. A giant 50,000-square-foot ballroom, but a ballroom nonetheless.

0 - Battle4Atlantis Ballroom

The imposing entrance to the Battle 4 Atlantis.

Which makes for a very intimate atmosphere. (Imagine Cameron Indoor without the upper deck – then imagine it’s carpeted everywhere but the court itself – and you’ll have a rough idea.) The seats at the Battle 4 Atlantis are makeshift bleachers positioned right on top of the court; you’re as close to the action here as you are in any high school gym. (There are signs everywhere inviting you to tweet the @AtlantisResort with the hashtag #betterseat to get a seat upgrade, but I’m not sure how that would even work. Perhaps they place a chair at the free throw line.)

But a court is a court and a game is a game – so if you’re watching this tournament on TV or listening to it on WCHL, you may not get a sense of just how small and intimate this place is. So, here are a few pictures from behind the scenes.

(Apologies in advance for the quality: I’m an amateur photographer with a low-rent cell phone.)

1 - Battle4Atlantis Before

This is the scene just outside the “arena” an hour before tipoff, just before they let the fans in. (The fans are waiting in line at a double door down a long hallway.)

2 - Battle4Atlantis Before

This is the hallway. Every single fan in attendance will walk down this hallway and through those velvet ropes.

3 - Battle4Atlantis Before

Just outside the doors to the arena, about an hour before game time.

4 - Battle4Atlantis Entering Imperial Arena

The view upon entry. That’s UNC warming up on the court. (When you walk in, you’re actually confronted first with the back of the bleachers. Then you turn left and cut around a corner to get here.)

5 - Battle4Atlantis Chapelboro spot

Courtside seats!

6 - Battle4Atlantis Courtside View UNC Warmup

The view from my seat at the press table. Check out that low ceiling.

7 - Battle4Atlantis Fans Enter

Just after the doors are opened, these are the first fans in line, about to enter the arena. (UNC is pretty well represented down here. At the game itself there was also a pretty strong contingent of Butler folks, but based on the team apparel I see walking around, UNC and Wisconsin are easily the two biggest fan bases on Paradise Island right now. Wisconsin’s got us beat, though, I think.)

8 - Battle4Atlantis Fans Enter

Now the excitement’s building as more and more fans make their way in…

9 - Battle4Atlantis WCHL tripgoers

…including our contest winners and the folks from Hickory Tavern. (There are ten of us, total, in the WCHL/Chapelboro group.)

10 - Battle4Atlantis Jones Angell and Eric Montross

And there’s Jones and Eric, getting ready.

12 - Battle4Atlantis Philip ESPN sign

Did this guy make it on TV? I hope so. He said his name was Philip – and his sign turned out to be prescient. UNC didn’t win, but Paige turned it on late in the second half (like always!) to help Carolina cut a 14-point deficit down to three before Butler pulled away.

So there you go – just to give you a better sense of the scope of this arena. It’s not a traditional basketball venue, but it makes for a pretty good atmosphere once the game gets going. And the intimacy extends to the hotel as a whole. Atlantis is a big big place, but with everyone all staying together in the same resort, you’re still constantly running into all the other fans – I don’t know how many times I’ve already run across the UAB fan I sat next to on the plane ride over here – plus players, coaches, and occasionally whole teams walking en masse. I caught the Carolina players all heading to some restaurant or other a few hours after the game was over. It all makes for a nice sense of togetherness – regardless of the outcome of the games.

(Of course a better outcome would be nice too. Tomorrow is another day.)

UNC: Lee Let Go In Wake Of Wainstein Report

UNC officials have identified the first person fired in the wake of the Wainstein report.

Multiple media agencies are reporting that academic counselor Jaimie Lee was fired on October 22, the same day the report was released. The report implicated Lee in the system of fake classes and inflated grades that were used to keep some athletes academically eligible to play.

The paper class fraud spanned 18 years, ending in 2011.

While university officials said nine employees were being disciplined or fired due to the report, they declined to release any names, until a lawsuit filed by local media organizations forced them to make that information public.

UNC Apologizes After Damaging Duke Locker Room

UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham and head football coach Larry Fedora have officially apologized to Duke University after the Tar Heel football team did at least $10,000 worth of damage to Duke’s visiting locker room after Thursday night’s football game.

The Tar Heels won that game 45-20, and as per tradition, they got to spray-paint the Victory Bell with the team colors. But the players reportedly took the spray paint with them into the locker room – and proceeded to spray paint the walls and carpets as well.

UNC officials have said they’ll pay for repairs; estimates of the damage have run as high as $25,000.

Fedora and Cunningham issued an official statement of apology which reads:

“We would like to apologize to the Duke Football program and Duke University for some inappropriate actions after last Thursday night’s game in Durham. Our team took the celebration too far when they were painting the bell, resulting in damage to some of the facilities at Duke. We take full responsibility for our actions and will be paying for all costs associated with the cleanup. We view this as a rivalry built on mutual respect and we expect our players to behave better in a way that is more befitting of the rivalry.”

Larry Fedora also reportedly called Duke head coach David Cutcliffe to apologize personally.

Melvin Scott, Former UNC Player, Charged With Rape

Former UNC basketball player Melvin Scott has reportedly been charged with second-degree rape, following an incident that occurred on August 20 in Durham.

Scott was arrested on Friday and is in Durham County jail under a $500,000 bond.

Originally from Baltimore, Melvin Scott was a member of UNC’s 2005 national championship team. He played pro basketball in Europe for several seasons before returning to the area; the Durham Herald-Sun reports he worked recently as a phys-ed teacher at the charter school Voyager Academy.

News Outlets Sue UNC To Release Wainstein Names

Following the release of the Wainstein report last month, UNC officials said they had begun disciplinary proceedings against nine employees – but so far, they’ve refused to say who those employees are.

Now, 11 local news agencies have filed a joint lawsuit against UNC, to force the university to release those names.

The suit was filed in Wake County Superior Court; it names Chancellor Carol Folt and Vice Chancellor Felicia Washington as defendants.

UNC officials have cited employee confidentiality as their reason not to release the names.

The nine names may already have been released unofficially, though: shortly after the Wainstein report’s release, the Daily Tar Heel listed the names of nine employees – all of whom had been named in the Wainstein report – and reported that an unnamed source had confirmed that those were the nine individuals in question. UNC has never officially confirmed that report.

WCHL is not a part of the current lawsuit.

“All I Saw (Were) Men In Black”

Sarah Headley, Aaron Keck, and UNC journalism student Annick Joseph contributed to this story.

On Thursday, UNC went into high alert after an anonymous post on the social media site Yik Yak suggested there might be a bomb in the Pit that afternoon.

Fortunately it turned out to be a false alarm – and police were able to identify the poster and make an arrest.

That arrest took place in Rita Balaban’s Economics 101 class in Carroll Hall 111. Balaban had seen a message from Alert Carolina on her way to class – but that was all she knew when she walked in that morning.

“When I got into the classroom I asked the students, ‘What’s the alert about?’” she says. “They filled me in that there was some kind of bomb threat…and so I was a little disturbed to begin with, because I’ve always thought (that) if something’s going to happen on campus, it’s going to happen in Carroll 111 because of the sheer numbers (of people in the classroom). It’s crossed my mind multiple times.”

Balaban says the arrest happened during the last three minutes of class. Authorities pulled her aside beforehand to let her know one of her students would be apprehended.

“As I’m teaching, I see men in black appearing at the doors in the back of the room,” she says. “One of them approaches me and says, ‘do you mind stepping out?’ – (and) all they said is, ‘there’s a student in your class that we’re going to apprehend after class’…

“My first reaction was, whoever made this bomb threat is sitting in this classroom right now, and that was pretty disturbing…(and) honest to God, you just saw men in black. To me, that’s all I saw.”

Oddly, it’s not the first time Balaban’s class has been interrupted this year: Balaban is also the professor who apprehended a pair of streakers who ran through her classroom last month.

This time, like last time, she says she tried to play it cool.

“I honestly didn’t see them grab anybody…but I was trying to act cool, just talking to the students who had questions about monetary policy,” she says. “It was funny – my chair came into Carroll 111 right afterward and said, ‘hey, more excitement going on?’ And I’m like, ‘you don’t know what’s happened?’ He wasn’t even aware of the alert…

“So some of us, we don’t even know what’s going on. If I had not looked at my phone (before class), I never would have known.”

Rita Balaban spoke to UNC journalism student Annick Joseph shortly after the incident.


The Yik Yak post turned out to be a false threat, of course, but Balaban says it still should be taken seriously.

“It’s not a joke,” she says. “This is too serious, too serious. (After) Florida State, Virginia Tech, Columbine, and (Sandy Hook), this is not to be taken lightly…

“If you call in a bomb threat, it’s a federal offense,” she continues. “I don’t know how they treat it (with) social media, but…there must have been a dozen (police officers) circling my room.”

Jay Eubank is the director of career services at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He says he agrees with Balaban.

“People need to realize that there are consequences to what you say, (whether) you think it’s anonymous or not,” he says. “Yelling fire in a theater, or joking ‘I’ve got a bomb in my suitcase, ha ha’ – no. There should be consequences to that.”

Police arrested Daniel Fischbeck, an 18-year-old student from Charlotte. He’s been charged with making a false bomb report in a public building, which is in fact a felony offense.

Listen to more eyewitness comments here.

Cost Of Wainstein Report? $3.1 Million

What was the cost of the Wainstein Report? 3.1 million dollars, according to an invoice released by UNC last week.

UNC hired attorney Kenneth Wainstein back in February to produce a comprehensive report on the so-called “paper” classes and other irregularities in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies Department, or AFAM. He and his team of ten researchers spent eight months preparing that report before releasing it in late October.

The final report was 131 pages long, with never-before-seen details about how far back the “scheme” went and who knew about it and when. According to an invoice, Wainstein and his ten researchers spent 4,905 hours working on it – and those were just the billable hours.

The $3 million dollar bill is pricey, but UNC officials say it’s worth it. Last month, system president Tom Ross told reporters the bill would not be paid by taxpayer funds – and while he couldn’t say at the time what the cost was, he said UNC was willing to pay whatever it took to get a full report.

“It will be very expensive – but you can’t put a price on the truth,” Ross said at October’s Board of Governors meeting. “And we needed the truth. The institution needed the truth. The system needed the truth. We needed to get to the bottom of this, because we need to be sure it never happens again.

“And so whatever it costs, in my view, will be worth it.”

Kenneth Wainstein himself earned the firm $714,000 for his work on the report that bears his name. Associate attorney A. Joseph Jay actually made the firm more, though: according to the invoice, about $1,075,000 of the total cost is for the 1,388 hours Jay spent working on the report.

Child Care Instability Affects Social Development: UNC

How are young children affected when they bounce around from one child care setting to another? UNC researchers have an answer.

Led by investigator Mary Bratsch-Hines, a new study from UNC’s Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute suggests that disruptions in child care can have a negative effect on social development, as early as age 4 – but those negative effects are generally not very large.

And there’s almost no effect when children experience changes within a child care setting – so if there’s a lot of staff turnover at your child’s daycare, for instance, you shouldn’t have to worry too much.

Children who keep moving from one child care setting to another, though, can sometimes be affected – and those effects can show up as early as pre-kindergarten. The study found that pre-K teachers were more likely to give lower marks on social development to kids who experienced more changes in child care settings.

Of course parents often have to switch child care providers – and the effects of switching appear to be small, regardless. But the study suggests that it’s worth trying to maintain stability if possible. Bratsch-Hines says child care subsidies are often tied to a parent’s employment, for instance, so parents end up having to move their kids if they have to change jobs. Changing the subsidies, she says, might help parents keep their kids in stable child-care settings, even if their own job situation changes.

Bratsch-Hines and her colleagues drew their findings from data in FPG’s Family Life Project; they studied nearly 1300 young children living in rural areas with high poverty rates. They published their study this fall in the journal Early Childhood Research Quarterly.

Read the full article here.

UNC Receives Letter From Accreditation Agency

In response to Kenneth Wainstein’s report on academic irregularities, UNC’s accreditation agency has sent the school an eight-page letter asking for an update on how it’s complying with the standards required for accreditation.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges sent the letter earlier this month; UNC officials released it publicly on Friday during a meeting of the Faculty Council.

Read the letter here.

Written by COC vice-president Cheryl Cardell, the letter asks UNC to address 18 separate points ranging from institutional integrity to academic support services. The COC is also asking UNC to address issues of academic freedom – namely, what standards are in place to enable faculty members and staff to raise concerns if they notice academic irregularities.

Wainstein’s report described an 18-year “scheme” of phony “paper” classes and other irregularities in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies Department (AFAM). The existence of those classes has been known for several years, and COC subjected UNC to additional oversight following the release of an earlier report on the matter. But Cardell’s letter says the COC wants an additional response now from UNC because Wainstein’s report spelled out additional details – including information about high-ranking officials outside the AFAM department who knew about the classes as well.

The letter asks for a response by January 7.

Arrest Made In UNC Bomb Threat

Additional reporting by Annick Joseph.

UNC’s Department of Public Safety has made an arrest in their investigation of the bomb scare on campus Thursday afternoon.

Police have arrested 18-year-old Daniel Berkman Fischbeck, a UNC student from Charlotte. He’s being charged with making a false bomb report in a public building, which is a felony.

The false report was issued on the social media site Yik Yak. Police officers entered Rita Balaban’s Economics 101 class in Carroll Hall at around noon, reportedly to make an arrest.

UNC journalism student Annick Joseph spoke with Rita Balaban…


…as well as Karla Garcia, a student in the class…


…Tricia Robinson, student records assistant at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication…


…Jay Eubank, director of career services at the UNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication…


…and DPS spokesperson Randy Young.