When the NCAA leveled devastating penalties on the Penn State football program in 2012, the NCAA also declared Penn State football players would be permitted to transfer without the NCAA’s standard transfer restrictions. Onlookers expected a massive exodus of players, but that exodus never happened. Some players left, but the Penn State coaching staff was able to retain most.
The same cannot be said for the UNC women’s basketball staff, and they haven’t even received NCAA penalties yet.
Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell’s contract extends three more years, to 2018. Three other UNC coaches, including women’s lacrosse coach Jenny Levy, received contract extensions earlier this summer, but Hatchell did not. Her supporters and other commentators have subsequently claimed UNC is denying her an extension because they are scapegoating her for the paper-class scandal.
Yet those supporters and commentators overlook the fact that women’s basketball appears to be losing the entirety of its heralded 2013 recruiting class.
Of the four players from that class, we only know second-hand that one of them chose to leave for reasons related to the scandal. However, having worked with women’s basketball players while I was a learning specialist at UNC, I know that some of them were never quite content at UNC since the assistant coach who recruited them decided to leave before their first year. A number of players never felt as connected to the remaining coaches.
No one from UNC Athletics has blamed Hatchell and her staff for the paper-class scandal, and no one should. Neither Hatchell nor any coach at UNC was involved in creating or perpetuating the paper classes. The argument that UNC is scapegoating Hatchell is both a misguided attempt by her supporters to shame Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham into granting her an extension, and an intellectually dishonest ploy by anti-athletics crusaders who want to see men’s basketball and football take all the blame.
Hatchell deservedly has had former players publicly support her. From what I know of her, she has been an honorable and successful coach for many years. However, the players whose support matters most are those who will be playing for other schools next year.