The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is already facing enough allegations in its academic and athletic fraud scandal to make it one of the broadest sets of charges against an athletic program in NCAA history. Somehow, however, the university’s leadership has found a way to add an entirely new allegation to the mess – sexism.
That charge arises from the treatment of head women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell. She and the head coach of the men’s basketball team, Roy Williams, both had contracts that ran through 2018. And both had players deeply involved in the bogus classes that moved the NCAA to level five major allegations against the university.
Williams’ contract was recently renewed through 2020 and included glowing praise from UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham. “Roy is a man of character and integrity, and I have great respect for the way he leads our basketball program,” Cunningham said.
Hatchell’s contract was not renewed, and Cunningham has little to say about her status. The longtime academic adviser to the women’s basketball program, Jan Boxill, is directly implicated in the fraud in the NCAA’s notice of allegations, and the women’s basketball program could face heavy penalties. In that event, Hatchell would almost certainly have to go. Not renewing her contract could limit any eventual expense to the university.
In light of likely penalties, Cunningham’s deferring a renewal is sensible. Where it becomes problematic is on the issue of equity. Both Hatchell and Williams are Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame coaches. Both have at least one national title. The men’s and women’s teams both reached the third round of their respective 2015 NCAA tournaments. And both coaches say they knew nothing about their players maintaining their eligibility by enrolling in phony classes.
Yet Williams has a fresh contract, a renewed vote of confidence and a well-stocked team that’s expected to contend for a national title. Hatchell missed most of last season battling leukemia but has recovered. The prospect of NCAA penalties has prompted several of her top players to leave for other schools.
Some have rallied to Hatchell’s defense, saying she is being made the scapegoat for academic fraud that started with football and men’s basketball players. But Hatchell’s troubles are of her own making. She either knew or should have known about the fraud. That the same isn’t expected of Williams and that his contract renewal wasn’t likewise held in abeyance until the NCAA acts are an obvious double standard.
With this new element, the scandal that has embarrassed the university is now dividing it.