From the Editor

UNC's Heels must be held to the fire

Executive EditorSeptember 18, 2010 

When UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp appeared before the Faculty Council last week to discuss investigations into the Tar Heel football program, the scene was set for the faculty to blitz him with questions.

Thorp signaled serious problems a few weeks earlier in opening a news conference by saying, "To anyone who loves this university, I'm sorry about what I have to tell you."

Shortly after, 13 players were kept out of the season-opening game in Atlanta.

So how many questions did Thorp get last week from the Faculty Council?

Two.

Not 22.

Two.

One more than one.

The number of points the other team gets for tackling you in your end zone.

Steven Bachenheimer, a microbiology professor, asked whether UNC has relaxed its standards in seeking football glory. Tom Linden, a journalism professor, asked why UNC agreed to pay the associate head coach $74,500 in severance as he left UNC one step ahead of possible NCAA sanctions.

Good for them. But there were more than 75 council members in attendance. Here are a few questions the others should have asked:

1. You are investigating whether a tutor employed by the university to work with football players gave inappropriate aid. That tutor also worked for coach Butch Davis and tutored his high school son. Is it appropriate for a tutor to work for both the university and the football coach?

2. You have indicated that academic misconduct might have occurred. If so, who is ultimately responsible?

3. If the NCAA hadn't investigated football players and their relationships with agents, would UNC have learned of the possible academic cheating? If not, isn't that a problem?

4. Some players used social media to discuss their travels and possible contact with agents. Shouldn't UNC's compliance officers closely monitor Twitter and Facebook?

5. Will you conduct a sport-by-sport review to see whether other athletes might have received inappropriate academic aid?

6. Should the $70 million expansion of Kenan Stadium be cancelled or scaled back, depending on the results of the investigations?

7. Is UNC admitting more football players who don't meet typical UNC admission standards than it did five or 10 years ago?

8. Are you satisfied with the oversight of the athletic department?

9. Is it possible to have a winning football team and maintain top-rate academic standards for all students?

10. What have you learned about operating a Division I football program since starting your job as chancellor?

The Faculty Council missed an opportunity, but it will have another when it meets with Thorp next month. Our reporters will work to get answers to these questions.

The underside of big-time college sports isn't pretty. A university needs the faculty to be its conscience. At UNC, faculty members need to get engaged on this issue. They need to get in the game.

john.drescher@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4515

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