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A Pitiful Victory

Lies, damned lies and UNC.

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North Carolina v Duke
DURHAM, NC - FEBRUARY 09: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels watches on during their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 9, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

The sad thing is we bought it.

For a long time, we bought it - the whole business. The idea that UNC was a public Ivy. The idea that there was such a thing as the Carolina Way. The idea that the crucible of the ‘60s scandal was so severe that UNC, scorched as it was, would stay away from the dark side of the game forevermore.

Worse, when Duke lost to these cheaters, we consoled ourselves, and our readers, that at least UNC did things the right way. It wasn’t like losing to, say, Kentucky or worse, Vegas. UNC still had some honor.

It took awhile but we began to catch on. We heard rumors in the ‘90s, some very specific. We heard one that Dean Smith called a professor and left a message asking for a lenient grade for one of his players.

When the professor called back, the rumor said, Smith told him never mind. I got it from someone else.

We knew about the 400 SAT of course, everyone knew that. We didn’t know until later what FSU coach Pat Kennedy said about how it wasn't fair to play UNC when the Tar Heels started five academic exceptions.

There was another rumor about a player who went to the NBA in the late ‘90s. The rumor was that he cheated in summer school. The details were pretty specific.

We heard another rumor just after the turn of the century. This one we heard after Duke beat UNC severely in 2002. We were standing outside Cameron looking at the dejected faces on the UNC bus and noticed Jason Capel in particular.

They’re cheating, we were told. They’ve got fake classes in the AFAM department. That’s how they’re doing it.

In 2002 we heard this and never forgot.

But still, for too long we believed they myth, the idea that UNC was a special program, that it was above that sort of thing. That it had learned its lesson and would never risk its good name again.

Well weren’t we fools.

They didn’t just risk it, they didn't just sneer at how President William C. Friday salvaged their honor in 1961 and how for a long time Dean Smith ran an honorable program and how UNC’s banner was as proud as anyone’s.

They took that banner and they wiped their rear ends with it and now it’s all shit and everyone knows what sort of athletic program UNC runs.

Dirty. Corner cutting. Sleazy.

You name it.

Only the NCAA couldn't find a way to make them face up to it which is incredible.

Remember, these weren’t easy classes that everyone took. They were no-show classes, graded by a secretary, Deborah Crowder, that were designed for athletes and more specifically, to exploit African-American athletes.

Remember how she was said to complain when the general student population figured out they could score an easy grade too? She couldn’t stop them taking the classes but she clearly didn’t want them to.

That was meant for athletes only. UNC said that wasn’t the case but the reality was they had no choice but to let the more legitimate “students” in. Any of them could have blown the whistle and keeping them out would reveal the game.

Remember when she decided to retire and people in the athletic department warned athletes that if they wanted her to grade their papers they’d better hurry up?

They knew.

Remember tutor Beth Bridger’s power point slide that bulleted these points after Crowder’s retirement meant the end of the academic gravy train?

We put them in classes that met degree requirements in which

  • They didn't go to class
  • They didn't take notes, have to stay awake
  • They didn’t have to meet with professors
  • They didn’t have to pay attention or necessarily engage with the material

This was discussed amongst colleagues. It was a goal.

They knew.

Remember how Sean May talked about taking a lot of independent study classes and how much it helped?

They knew.

Remember how former assistant A.D. Matt Kupek gave Tyler Hansbrough’s mom, Tammy, a job as a fundraiser? And then took her, at school expense, to non-university events that another son, Ben, was participating in for Notre Dame?

They knew.

Remember Michael McAdoo’s ludicrous lawsuit during which NC State students deduced in about 30 minutes that he plagiarized a paper and identified the sources too?

They knew.

Remember when Julius Pepper’s surprising transcript was found in an unprotected directory and exposed?

They knew.

Remember how Rashad McCants dared his former teammates to release their transcripts and not one wanted to clear his name?

They knew.

Remember how athletes were steered to classes that weren’t just easy but never met?

Of course they knew.

Remember Leslie McDonald’s mouthpiece endorsement?

They knew.

Remember provost Jim Dean’s letter to professor Jan Boxill? He said there was “compelling evidence that over a period of several years you knowingly participated in grossly improper practices in your roles as a member of the faculty and an academic advisor to student athletes.”

He also accused her specifically of

  • Asking AFAM to provide specific grades to students
  • Of steering athletes to classes “taught” by secretary Deborah Crowder
  • Of writing and editing papers for students she worked with
  • Of allowing students to enroll in independent study classes that took no effort

Remember Fats Thomas and the high end car rentals that showed up with UNC players?

They knew.

Remember how Kenneth Wainstein found that there was pressure from the athletic department tutors that prompted the academic fraud?

They knew.

We knew a lot of it in Durham.

Of course they knew.

In their determination to beat the system, UNC surpassed the 1960s level of shame and humiliation and completely forgot about character.

Along the way they probably helped to push the final nail in the NCAA’s coffin.

What use is it anymore? You don’t have to go to class, a good player can get north of $100,000, and if you play your cards right, at Louisville (get it), you can get hookers tossed in for free if for some reason you want them.

From UNC’s perspective though, great news: despite the long list above which doesn't even mention agents or runners, the university has gotten away with it. The lies, deceit and excuses worked; the NCAA is doing bupkis. Eighteen million was well spent as far as they’re concerned.

The rest of the ACC, and the rest of college sports, should be seriously pissed at UNC. They lied to everyone, they took advantage of everyone, and if you think this all came as some sort of surprise, well, read over the list at the top again.

They knew.

Even now, the level of corruption and cheating is staggering. We hope that wherever they go, whichever arena or stadium they enter, that the fans let them know.

We know what you did. We know what you are.

The only school we hold in lower regard is Baylor, where rape and murder set a whole different standard for disgrace.

Outside of that though, UNC is as bad as anhyone has ever been.

And shameful though it was to cheat your colleagues and competitors, there’s a far worse betrayal.

When the South was truly a wicked place, where whites killed blacks publicly and with impunity, when terror ruled, there were precious few rays of light. Chapel Hill was one.

It was always a champion of justice and inclusion. People put their lives on the lines and not just in the Civil Rights era, but when very few people were willing to stick their neck out, people at UNC, and the institution, did so, often and courageously.

How very sad then that after fighting Jim Crow for decades, after fighting for justice and inclusion, how dreadful is that the former champion of the oppressed welcomed African-American students and athletes to campus, only to exploit many of those athletes for their physical talents and money-making abilities and to fail at the one thing a university is supposed to do.

Enjoy your victory, champs.

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