In an interview with a local magazine published last week, former UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser complained that media coverage of an academic scandal that involved many UNC athletes was more about taking down championship banners than getting at what went wrong.
Im really angry about [the media], Moeser told the Chapel Hill Magazine, a lifestyle publication. I think they target people, and they take pleasure in bringing people down. I think their real goal here was to remove banners from the Smith Center.
The remarks were part of a short article in which Moeser defended The Carolina Way. Thats the title of a book written by revered mens basketball coach Dean Smith, who retired in 1997, in which he offers his lessons for achieving success through hard work and strong ethics. Its become a motto for the university, and it has taken a beating amid the academic and athletic scandals at the university over the past three years.
Those scandals include an NCAA investigation into the football team that found improper financial benefits for top players and improper academic and financial help from a tutor, and an academic fraud scandal that involves more than 200 lecture-style classes that never met and were heavily populated by athletes.
UNCs football team has never won a national championship, but its mens basketball team, which plays in the Smith Center, won two championships during the roughly 14 years of no-show classes within the African and Afro-American studies department. Records show mens basketball players were enrolled in the classes, including two that had one basketball player as the sole enrollee.
The university has not given a full accounting of football and mens basketball enrollments in all the classes, but has insisted it was not an athletic scandal because nonathletes were enrolled and received the same good-to-excellent grades.
I think [the media] has really put a target on the university, Moeser told the magazine, and theyve treated The Carolina Way in a very cynical fashion, trashing it, really, and indicating The Carolina Way was always just a fiction, a façade we put in front of misbehavior. I really resent that. I think The Carolina Way is genuine, I think its real.
Moeser, who was chancellor from 2000 to 2008, could not be reached for comment.
John Drescher, executive editor of The News & Observer and a UNC-CH alumnus, disputed Moesers take on the media coverage.
We werent trying to get anybody, Drescher said, but we were trying to get to the bottom of what happened at UNC. Most of our readers understood that and appreciate the digging we did.
Moesers comments drew national attention when they were picked up by Deadspin, an irreverent online sports publication best known for exposing Notre Dame football star Manti Teos fictious girlfriend. But the magazine criticized Moeser for shooting the messenger.
Closer to home, John Robinson, the former editor of The (Greensboro) News & Record, wrote in his blog, Media disrupted, that Moeser doesnt understand the medias job in an open society.
What actually has happened is that the N&O discovered some rot in the internal workings at UNC in athletics and academia and, like an infection in the body, you have to keep going after it to get rid of it all, Robinson wrote. Thats what the N&O has done and is still doing.
Some faculty at the university said Moesers remarks were misguided. Michael Hunt, a history professor emeritus, said Moeser may be reacting to the criticism leveled by rival fans.
He may be reflecting the embattled feeling that the administrators are feeling, Hunt said. The problem is they are dragging this out, and I dont think anybody is saying -- I havent heard a word saying -- Oh, the N&Os persecuting Chapel Hill. Nobody is saying that except for the people who are trying to keep the lid on.
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