The 208-page report released by UNC this week pertaining to the football scandal revealed few new facts and fewer names – thanks to heavy redaction in almost every document. What it did underscore was the gross lack of oversight in the entire mess.
From the first $67,000 paid to a Kansas law firm that was hired and still could not prevent loose lips that sunk some scholarships, to the naïve “c’mon in” attitude of the athletic department toward the NCAA, it has mushroomed into an academic scandal whose stench will last long after the three-year probationary period ends. And more legal bills will be coming for sure.
The media is – and continues to be – dogged in seeking the release of every public document pertaining to the scandal. That UNC won’t give up any of the names of players, tutors and others involved, citing FERPA privacy laws, is like dangling raw meat in front of a Tiger. That’s how hungry the so-called traditional media is to prove that it still has a place in the Internet-social media society of today.
Most of the impermissible benefits remain pretty petty. One case involves a couple of players who slept on a former teammate’s couch after a heavy night of partying instead of making it back to the hotel room they had paid for with their own money. Hotel, no violation; buddy’s couch, impermissible bennie. Silly rule.
The worst of it involves Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn, and Greg Little, three players who did take what they weren’t supposed to in travel and jewelry. Each committed specific crimes in the eyes of the NCAA as the scandal blew up.
Austin, of course, awoke the college watchdogs by tweeting from that South Beach bistro. Quinn gave up his cell phone that had calls and texts linking him to a Miami jeweler. And Little, who has never been able to keep his trap shut, first mentioned “Miss Wiley” to NCAA investigators, which allowed them to look at Jennifer Wiley’s university email account that contained hundreds to and from football players. That turned an NCAA investigation into an academic fraud case.
Granted, Carolina has had very little experience dealing with the NCAA on this side of the line; it has been 50 years since our last probation. But, until Bubba Cunningham arrived, the athletic department was pathetically myopic in not seeking advice from outside sources and convincing each other the Carolina Way will prevail and the worst is over. The Carolina Way is now a punch line.
One obvious transparency was bringing in the Kansas law firm that still could not prepare the players well enough for their inquisitions. Another is the university telling players NOT to get their own individual attorneys because it will “make you look guilty.” That lit a fire under Devon Ramsay’s mother, who lawyered up on her own and got her son off.
And now it’s clear that Carolina has slipped across the line that separates every major college athletic department from those with a rap sheet. Since the leather helmet days, football players have been taking $5-50 handshakes, free meals here and there, and steered toward courses taught by the “Easy B Nyang’oros.”
The depth of this probe has made it look like a rogue department and a Chair and associate who turned lecture classes into independent study courses (without teachers) in which tutors helped players write papers that would determine their grades. That part of the scandal is still under deep scrutiny and looks like it will have the most damning effect on the rep of a great university.
When 18 football players wind up in a course that was put onto the schedule at virtually the last minute, there had to be a conduit between athletics and academics to help those players needing to stay eligible. There is simply no other explanation, whether it was John Blake, the academic support staff or Butch Davis himself coming up with the solution. Eventually, someone else may pay for that.
Of course, Davis continues to claim he did nothing wrong and knew of nothing wrong. Truth is, he did know a lot about what was going on at the academic support center, did not like some of it and butted heads trying to change it.
Whatever the well-known football fibber knew or didn’t know, the buck had to stop with the man making $3 million as CEO of the program. All this deny, deny, deny, and I didn’t know on You Tube is enough to make any caring Tar Heel sick to his stomach. Davis did lots of good with UNC football but apparently nothing bad.
And yet, we’re still paying his full severance, even though it’s clear he and his agent are pulling a fast one with the wording of Davis’ new job description in Tampa Bay. PLUS, we invited his kid to join the football team as a walk-on, keeping his dad as part of the UNC Football Family. Not exactly what I’d call a fresh start and moving on.
As my friend BobLee says, “There has to be a better answer than our mess isn’t as bad as Penn State’s.”
If you want to read the acerbic version of the story from BobLee himself, click here. Laughing and crying out loud are both permitted.