The News & Observer has been handed its next scandal to uncover.

During the extended period of time the N&O dogged UNC about its so-called paper classes that were taken disproportionately by athletes, I asked John Drescher, an old friend and executive editor of the newspaper, why he had not continued the practice of comparing what goes on at the three local universities they cover.

For years, when the paper was writing an investigative piece, good or bad, at one of the schools, it often carried a sidebar about how something similar was done at the other two universities. If nothing else, for context. Drescher said to me something like nothing compares to what’s going on at Carolina.

I begged to differ, and now comes proof from none other than a Duke professor in a story he penned for, guess who, the News & Observer. Orin Starn is a professor of Cultural Anthropology at Duke and played college soccer and golf.

Starn wrote last Friday that Duke varsity athletes miss “thousands” of classes each year  while traveling to and from games with their respective teams. He says their absences are registered under the category of short term illness, and that most of the athletes can do no more than barely pass the classes they miss.

Starn doesn’t target football and men’s basketball, clearly resigned to the fact that those jocks can miss class time because they make the big bucks for the Duke athletic department, which has spent millions upon millions of dollars upgrading its facilities in all sports. He thinks the so-called Olympic sports should take the same time as writing for the campus newspaper or working in student government, played basically as intramurals or as club teams.

So what is the difference between missing so many classes that you can’t really learn anything and taking easy classes scheduled around practice time and geared to help keeping athletes eligible? Starn goes as far as warning Duke alumni, students and fans not to be so smug because what happened at Carolina has been happening there for many years, only in a different iteration.

He has virtually invited the News & Observer to look into his claims and investigate why so many excused absences would never be allowed for non-athletes without them receiving failing grades. Athletes are treated differently at Duke, which shouldn’t be a big revelation to anyone who knows anything about big-time college sports.

However, it should be a good next assignment for the News & Observer to investigate. Get on it, Dan Kane.