Another investigation into reports that athletes at UNC were allowed to enroll in sham paper classes that were manipulated for the purposes of helping ease their path toward maintaining eligibility has resulted in another report and more heads rolling in Chapel Hill.
And it may not be over yet, with University of North Carolina basketball coach roy williams now having to answer questions at postgame pressers about whether the school might have to take down banners for championships won using players that may eventually be declared retroactively ineligible. And even up the road from our base of operations in Virginia, at James Madison, the new football coach there, Everett Withers, who was on the football staff at UNC at the tail end of the scandal, is coming under fire for maybe not being as forthcoming in sharing what he knew with the investigators.
Cutting to the chase, it’s highly doubtful that the NCAA is going to slap any kind of meaningful sanctions on UNC basketball or football as part of the fallout from the scandal, and it may not even ultimately force the basketball program to vacate wins and championships, though that one could be debateable.
This is Carolina, after all, where they do things the Carolina Way, the right way. UNC-Chapel Hill is known for its academics, and for not bending its academic standards to win on the field and on the court. Other schools might let their student-athletes take part in sham classes and major in eligibility, but UNC won with kids who excelled in the classroom as much as they did in competition.
Deflating that illusion may be enough sanction, ultimately, for UNC’s sins revealed in this latest report. Now we know that the Carolina Way was just so much puffery, that even dating back to the legendary Dean Smith the program benefitted from corners being cut and dirt being swept under rugs.
The feeling that I can’t overcome in relation to reading the details of what has been reported is basic disappointment, not only in the school and its athletics program, but also in the sportswriters sitting next to me in press boxes who dismiss the news with a wave of the hand. Ah, this goes on everywhere, everybody cheats, what’s the big deal.
The big deal is that it wasn’t supposed to be going on at UNC. As a University of Virginia alum, I sure hope that this kind of thing isn’t going on at my alma mater; and if it is, I’d rather see the athletics program shuttered than win that way, at the value of that piece of paper hanging on the wall in my office, the work that went into earning it, and the values that I picked up along the way.
– Column by Chris Graham