It was quite a distressing show in Nashville, Tenn., as officials and coaches of UNC-Chapel Hill and some high-powered North Carolina lawyers met with officials of the NCAA – college athletics’ governing body – to continue the sad and sorry saga of an athletics and academic scandal first exposed in The News & Observer and confirmed in a $3 million investigation by Washington superlawyer Kenneth Wainstein.
Phony courses in which athletes were enrolled and “earned” good grades were at the center of the investigation. But throughout, university officials have treated the matter as a public relations problem, hiring expensive outside PR help to try to “manage the story.” And with regard to the NCAA, they’ve even argued that the issue is purely academic and thus the NCAA – which has the power to punish the university for rules violations – has no jurisdiction. The NCAA begs to differ, and thus university officials were summoned to Nashville this week.
Whatever the outcome with the NCAA, this multimillion-dollar scandal has harmed UNC-CH’s reputation. And when a conclusion is reached, the university owes alums and taxpayers more than excuses and counter charges. It owes, rather, an explanation of what has been learned from this experience and what the university is doing to ensure there is never another similar problem. Yes, some changes have been made; but a public explanation has been thus far inadequate. There’s more to come in this process; there needs to be more to come in the university’s explanation to its constituents.