UNC needs to get to the bottom of it

Staff WriterAugust 28, 2010 

  • According to an e-mail from an NCAA spokesperson, there are four pillars of institutional control: compliance systems, monitoring and enforcement, rules education and a commitment to compliance. A case-by-case analysis is required when reviewing violations to determine if there was a lack of institutional control or failure to monitor. Information that would be included during this analysis would be the duration and frequency of violations; the visibility of violations; warning signs to the university; number of involved student-athletes or teams; number of involved staff members; significance of impermissible benefit; recruiting or competitive advantage gained; and if it was a self-reported violation or reported from outside source.

North Carolina quite clearly has an institutional oversight problem regarding its football program.

The extent and impact of that deficiency likely will not be known until an investigation into a possible full-blown academic scandal runs its course.

But for anyone to deny that the school's football culture is either out of control or very close to that point is to completely ignore the rancid odor that has permeated Kenan Stadium throughout the summer.

That's especially the case with head coach Butch Davis, who is being paid $2 million annually to win games and operate a clean, respectable program.

In defense of both Davis and North Carolina, the entire big-time college football community has become so totally out of control that the current problems are probably closer to the norm than the exception.

Counting assistant coaches, graduate aides, support staff, equipment experts and various other personnel, many schools have more football-related employees than some corporations.

The perceived cost of high-level competition is such that even in the midst of the current investigations, an awkward $70 million expansion project is under way at Kenan.

The addition is being called "The Carolina Student-Athlete Center for Excellence" with the core words being "student-athlete."

The facility will include a 13,600-square-foot weight room and - get this - an academic support area that the school says will be the largest of its kind in the ACC.

Presumably, that is where the team's tutors will do their chores.

There's a big demand for tutorial assistants in football and basketball at almost all schools these days. But that's to be expected when the standard recruiting procedure across the board is to annually sign at least a few players who have no more than marginal interest in attending college.

As with at least 75 other major colleges, North Carolina needs to simplify and purify its athletic operation, while cutting back operating costs in football and basketball.

The big-time football model of the past 10 or so years is financially and ethically unsustainable. There are NFL teams that would die for the sort of football infrastructure and personnel budgets routinely found on college campuses.

For all its investment and emphasis on the sport, North Carolina last won a league football championship in 1980, while Wake Forest and Georgia Tech have won titles during the past four years.

Regardless of where the current probes lead, North Carolina needs to come away from this ordeal determined to keep a closer eye on all sports but particularly football.

Proof of that much was right in chancellor Holden Thorp's words Thursday when he said he "didn't think this would happen, and we still don't know the extent of it."

Who knew what should come out eventually, but at the least Davis should have known that he was operating in a dangerous area by hiring a tutor for his son that had also worked for the football program.

Athletic director Dick Baddour added, "We don't yet know the extent of the issue" regarding possible academic fraud.

In other words, there was a possible time bomb and no one noticed or heard anything.

What's more, apparently no one in power was looking or caring seriously until the possible academic wrongdoing happened to pop up during the course of the NCAA investigation into player/agent dealings.

Now, a group of UNC folks will attempt to sift through the backwash. In addition to school lawyers, Baddour said UNC compliance chief Lance Markos, assistant AD John Blanchard, former longtime faculty rep to athletics Jack Evans and current faculty athletic rep Lissa Broome will be on the team.

Hopefully, that group will be expanded to include at least a couple of faculty members with no ties to athletics.

Thorp said, "The way Carolina does things will be apparent in how we handle this" and "we will not let these mistakes define our university and what we stand for. We will use this to be a better university, a better athletic department and a better football program in the years to come."

That process has to begin with conducting the most thorough, transparent and neutral investigation possible.

If the fact-finding mission follows any other direction, the school will again have failed to maintain the best possible institutional control.

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8946

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