UNC Athletic Program’s Woes Deepen With Latest WrinklePosted by BHayes on July 23rd, 2013
Bennet Hayes is an RTC columnist. He can be reached @HoopsTraveler.
The investigative process into the UNC athletic program’s academic scandal may be all the way into year four, but there are still brand new damning details to be found. The latest, and perhaps most damaging, nugget is news that Faculty Council Chairman Jan Boxill offered a last minute rewrite of the council’s report into academic fraud (a report that was sent to the NCAA) in an obvious effort to minimize potential penalties on the athletic program. Email correspondence between other members of the committee revealed a firm disagreement with the final changes submitted by Boxill – alterations that appear to minimize the relationship between those teachers involved in the academic transgressions and the athletic department. While slightly reassuring to know that the rest of the committee was fully committed to fact-finding, this newest revelation is yet another sobering reminder of the lengths some administrators will go to protect their beloved (and lucrative) athletic programs.
After more than three years into the investigation, questions still far outnumber answers. This newest development resonates for a few reasons. As it pertains to UNC, the changes obviously hint at more involvement from the athletic program than we previously suspected. At a time when things were supposed to be winding down with the university making their reparations and finally moving on, it now appears things may be just getting fired up again. Not welcome news for anyone in Chapel Hill. Furthermore, the incompetence of the committee built to figure it all out (most notably the Chairman) certainly does the public image of the school no favors.
But if we look beyond the Tar Heel State, it also has scary implications for everyone in this scandal-ridden era of college sports. To this point we have generally seen the poor decision-making and win-at-all-costs mentality exist directly within the athletic programs. When we hear of a coach taking a shortcut on the recruiting trail or a booster slipping a player some extra spending money, we are saddened but not shocked. But we begin to tread on unbroken ground when we see esteemed members of a prominent university at-large covering-up for the athletic department. These are supposed to be leaders with the university’s best interests at heart; individuals always staying in touch with the educational mission of their school. It’s unfair to extrapolate the UNC situation any further than where it is right now, but at a time in college sports when fans are looking for someone, anyone to trust, it’s a development that doesn’t do much to reassure that the system isn’t broken.
Past internal fact-finding in the UNC case had prompted university leaders, most notably North Carolina Governor Jim Martin, to conclude that the issue was purely an academic one — an analysis that seemed to remove any implication of involvement from the athletic program. It’s unequivocally clear that Boxill disagreed with that final verdict, and her decision to doctor the final documents represents a sharp lapse in judgment from a leader charged with presenting the truth to the NCAA. Her sins aside, it also feels like a clear signal that Martin and company were wrong, that this was not simply an academic issue. We can hope that time will allow more and more truths to seep out, but either way, it’s high time some accountability exists for an athletic program that continues to lose some shine off a once-sterling reputation.