After millions of dollars spent on attorneys and public relations help, after years of obfuscation and complaining about news coverage involving the football team and a coach’s resignation, and then the academic/athletics scandal with phony classes in African studies which drew lots of athletes, the sad, sorry saga of UNC-Chapel Hill’s dispute with the NCAA appears headed to no end. The latest development is that correspondence The News & Observer had been seeking for three weeks appears to show the NCAA, college sports’ governing body, isn’t really working as a partner with UNC in investigating those phony classes.
As reported by The News & Observer’s Dan Kane, the NCAA is talking about the university’s “willful violations” and “blatant disregard” for the organization’s rules. UNC is trying to have an infractions case tossed out because it says the NCAA knew about fake classes when it was investigating the university in 2011 but took no action. The NCAA counters that UNC didn’t tell it everything it should have about the classes at that time.
Good grief. The university, which handled this entire scandal poorly from the beginning — choosing to attack The N&O and Kane and hiding behind legal maneuvering and expensive outside public relations help — just can’t seem to get this resolved. And in the meantime, alums and taxpayers rightly want to know why.
And they are looking to South Building in Chapel Hill and to Chancellor Carol Folt for answers, or at least direction. It’s true the alleged shenanigans with classes didn’t happen on her watch. Indeed, her predecessor, Holden Thorp, departed as the problems just seemed to get worse. But like it or not, Folt owns this problem and she needs to approach it with urgency, and to get her lawyers and athletics officials to do the same.
For years now, university officials have waffled about everything in this scandal, and as a recent N&O series showed, even tried to downplay the fact that classes like the phony ones in African studies that proved popular with athletes could be somehow improper. The problems were finally investigated by Ken Wainstein, a Washington attorney, who found pretty much what Kane had found in his investigation, a clearly improper group of phony classes and other problems. The tab on that investigation was over $3 million.
Had the university been more forthcoming from the start, had it not cloaked itself in the “Carolina Way” and simply refused to believe that the problems were as serious as they were, this could have been put to bed long ago. The latest fuss between the university and the NCAA is frustrating for the university’s constituency. Folt needs to take charge in a public way and do what has to be done to write the last chapter on this sorry story.