Football at Chapel Hill: Questions and answers

September 23, 2010 

In a column on Saturday, John Drescher, The N&O's executive editor, posed 10 questions for UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp dealing with the NCAA's investigation of the university's football program, questions Drescher said faculty members should have raised at a recent meeting with the chancellor.

In a response, Thorp defended the faculty, saying he had addressed the investigation in a briefing he gave them, and his doing so may have answered many questions in advance. He replied to Drescher's questions as follows.

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?

There's no policy that would have prohibited the tutor from working for the Davis family. But knowing what we know now, it wasn't a good idea.

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

It's my job to ensure that academic integrity is at the forefront of everything we do at this university. On the individual level, any student who engages in academic misconduct is responsible for his or her own actions and decisions. For 130 years, our students have pledged under our Honor Code not to lie, cheat or steal. It's the heart of integrity at Carolina. People make mistakes. When that happens, they have to bear the consequences. When those people are our students, they also need to know that we will always care about them and be there to help them learn from and rise above those mistakes. We've got a student-run Honor Court system in which I have complete confidence.

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?

Probably not initially. But our work has shown that we have strong controls in place in the academic support program, and I think that we would have eventually discovered the misconduct. We have asked the elected Faculty Committee on Athletics to examine this problem in detail and recommend necessary changes to our academic support programs.

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?

We instituted a new social media policy in August, and Athletic Department staff will monitor social media sites. Postings that raise questions will be brought to the attention of our compliance staff.

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

We are part way through examining a number of sports and student-athletes, and if we find anything, we'll address it.

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

No. We need to strengthen our academic support program for all 700-plus student-athletes, and getting new space is critical to our success. We also need to secure a long-term revenue stream to support the entire 28-sport athletic program. Carolina fans are passionate about athletics and football and will stick with us to make the Blue Zone a success. Better facilities will give us the ability to attract even better recruits who can succeed both in the classroom and on the field.

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

No. Since Coach Davis arrived, the average SAT for football has gone up 47 points.

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

Yes. I can't imagine having a better athletic director than Dick Baddour. He has experience in compliance, and he values the integrity of the university over winning any game. It is precisely with someone of Dick's experience and love for the university that we have the best opportunity to address the problems before us and ensure that they don't happen again.

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

Absolutely yes. Obviously this investigation is a setback for us. But it's also an opportunity for us to take a hard look at everything we're doing and then to get better. I really believe that this is a golden opportunity to strengthen the culture in the football program to one with a greater emphasis on academic effort and academic success. Those changes are already under way. We can show the nation how to respond to these challenges and create a football program that succeeds in the classroom and on the field.

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

This is one of the hardest things I've faced so far, and it's also one of the most important. I know that people will judge us by how we respond to this challenge. My goal is for us to demonstrate through our actions what we stand for and where our priorities lie. We will put academic integrity and academic success above winning, but we also believe that we can field winning teams while creating extraordinary educational opportunities for our student-athletes.

Finally, my focus here has been on academics. But there are two prongs to our review - one is academics and the other is agent-related. Please do not make assumptions about the category of the investigation into which any particular student-athlete might be placed. There are different types and degrees of transgressions and different processes for resolving them.

The common denominators are the demand for great effort and the need for patience. We are doing everything humanly possible to bring this matter to conclusion.

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