When is the Past Past?
This is Lew Margolis.
It is the quiet calm of summer on a college campus, but the quiet this year seems heightened by anticipation of the report by Investigator Kenneth Wainstein on the unresolved athletic scandals at UNC. Further, the NCAA, that stalwart institution of educational and athletic integrity, is re-opening its investigation of the UNC athletic scandals, although we have heard little during the quiet of summer. Two questions come to mind.
First, what good is the NCAA? By any measure, more than enough fodder has emerged to warrant investigation by an athletics oversight body. The purpose of the NCAA is, in its words, “to govern competition in a fair, safe, equitable and sportsmanlike manner, and to integrate intercollegiate athletics into higher education so that the educational experience of the student-athlete is paramount.” More than enough academic compromise has been exposed at UNC—threats to fairness and sportsmanship — to think that the NCAA might be curious or even motivated to act long before Rashad McCants provocatively spoke out about his stunning academic record or Julius Nyang’oro agreed to testify about his role in return for having felony charges dropped. As a recent U.S. Senate hearing has suggested, perhaps the real purpose of the NCAA is something other than fairness and a paramount educational experience for students who play big-time college revenue sports.
Second, why continue to muck around in the past? I know that many are angered by the often repeated recitation of past events by the News and Observer, like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, each time a new piece of the scandal is revealed. I think repeating the narrative serves a vital purpose. The athletics scandal at UNC and those as yet undisclosed athletics scandals at our sister schools are so stunning, so at odds with what universities should be doing, that the recitation of facts is a kind of scholarly cold water in the face, forcing us to re-think and re-examine how we allowed ourselves to get into this predicament. Looking at the facts this way and that, again and again, may help us to diagnose the problem in order to design appropriate therapy. A doctor has said treatment without diagnosis is malpractice. Perhaps Kenneth Wainstein will finally lead us to a diagnosis of what the disease is at Carolina. Sadly, however, even if we arrive at a diagnosis for Carolina, the virus of the corruption of big-time sports or the bacteria that has caused so many universities to compromise their missions for big-time sports is still raging in the population.
To those troubled by the media’s unwillingness to let the past be the past, I remind you of William Faulkner’s wisdom in Requiem for a Nun:
“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”