The N&O's Dan Kane has been the single best reporter covering the academic fraud scandal at UNC. He has a new story up for Sunday.
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Unfortunately, it hints at some not-so-great things. No, not new revelations in the scandal, but questions about how the NCAA is handling the investigation.
The basic concern is that the NCAA is treating UNC like a partner, which, to be fair, is standard. But as Donna Lopiano, formerly Texas A.D. for women's sports says, it makes no sense for the university to participate at this point, other than providing evidence. It's a conflict of interest.
And it is strange/stupid that the NCAA expected whistleblower Mary Willingham would share her concerns with UNC - while the two were due in court.
Look, rivalry stuff aside, we don't seriously wish trouble on UNC. We have friends, family and neighbors who love that place and we love them. So on that basis we don't really want to see UNC go through this.
And from a conference point of view, a crippled UNC helps no one. Duke and UNC basically pay the bills. That may change some now with expansion, but those schools should always be a threat in basketball at least.
On a fundamental level though, both UNC and the NCAA are playing with fire and at least UNC has been for some time.
In UNC's case, there has been a definite institutional attitude of either trying to evade the whole situation or dismiss it as less serious than it actually is.
The Chancellor has made comments to this effect, Larry Fedora has had minimal awareness of this, almost never mentioning academics when he talks about winning. Roy Williams has tried to have it both ways, talking at times about how close he is to his players, then saying he had no idea about academic issues. And A.D. Bubba Cunningham said this to Inside Carolina in January:
"It’s one person’s interpretation of 126 interviews. It’s some opinion, some fact, and it was used to try to understand what happened. It’s not a legal document. It’s not a document that will be the answer guide to SACS, the NCAA or anything else. It’s just one piece of evidence in a large body of information."
Seriously? That's very nearly delusional. He is correct in that it's not a legal document, but it's thoroughly researched, footnoted and vetted. It's much more than one person's interpretation.
Furthermore, any damage from the NCAA will be temporary. The real dangers is from the SACS.
SACS, if you weren't aware, stands for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Ol' Bubba can whistle by the graveyard if he wants, but those folks have no particular concern about athletics. It has the power to devalue every UNC degree in the world and has already made clear that it did not find UNC's previous obfuscations amusing.
You toy with your accreditation at your own peril. And we might add that if SACS hits UNC hard, the next thing is that Chapel Hill will see a massive class action suit by current and former students who will have just been screwed.
And the NCAA? It's already a train wreck, with the cars piling up on one another. If it can't handle a case which drew the attention of the Orange County D.A., if it can't look at the voluminous public records, if it can't go to UNC and pull transcripts and connect the dots, well, what point does it have anymore?
If it can't find a way to deal with the worst academic fraud case in its history, it might as well implode now.