There wasnt much new information in a New York Times story this week about the academic and athletics disgrace suffered in the past few years at an institution that once boasted of the Carolina Way, calling to mind visions of knights on white horses.
The News & Observer, after all, has been reporting on problems with the football program and the appalling bogus courses offered in the universitys African studies department, where athletes seemed to get preferential treatment, particularly from Julius Nyangoro, the former department chairman.
Nyangoro, as reported in The Times and previously in The N&O, was paid for a course that didnt meet, in which athletes got grades for papers allegedly turned in. Nyangoro, who has been silent since the scandal broke, is under a criminal indictment. He previously resigned his department chairmanship and retired.
His friends say hes a scapegoat. Critics among the faculty say he hasnt explained a thing about what happened. Presumably, when under oath in court, he wont have a choice.
The Times report will most certainly spread the word about this embarrassing chapter in the universitys history to those who havent heard it. Thats not good for a university trying to restore its image and its reputation for a clean sports program. Not that the university has anyone else to blame.
Some faculty members, to their credit, have spoken out not easy given the power of athletics boosters who just want all this to go away. History Professor Jay Smith is the most notable of that group. But too often, the response heard from Chapel Hill is that this entire episode must be laid at the feet of Nyangoro and his former office administrator, Deborah Crowder, and no one else.
A friend of Nyangoros, however, raises the legitimate question of how just two people could have been responsible for all that happened, given the numerous employees in the athletics department involved in academic support.
As legal proceedings move forward, more information will come to light, little of it likely to restore the universitys reputation.
Make no mistake. UNC-Chapel Hill is a top public institution, well-respected, with some faculty members who are the best in their fields. There is much good to be said, and the university will outlive this fiasco. But its leaders would do well to learn that the problems here, in both a football program run amok and a connected academic scandal, are not the product of poor public relations. Boosters pressed for big time sports, and they got it.
Despite constant reassurances that this university or any other could have top-quality, respected academic preeminence and nationally competitive athletics, the truth is that such a marriage is often turbulent. And what happened in Chapel Hill is a good example of why.