The troubled UNC athletic program

Dec. 08, 2013 @ 08:49 AM

Most of the people of North Carolina are partial to the University of North Carolina system.  Whether they prefer the UNC at Chapel Hill or N.C. State, or some other UNC institution, they are proud of UNC.

The mission of UNC is in keeping with this attitude.  It is this:

"To discover, create, transmit and apply knowledge to address the needs of individuals and society. . . . through instruction, which communicates the knowledge . . . .  necessary for individuals to lead responsible, productive lives; through research, scholarship, and creative activities, which advance knowledge . . . . and through public service enriches the quality of life in the State. . . . ."

Nowhere in this statement is there any mention of preferential treatment being given to football, basketball or baseball athletes.

Nevertheless, the university has seen fit to offer special consideration to UNC athletes. This tendency has existed for many years.   I remember conversations about this as far back as the late l940s.  We disapproved, but we felt the idea was pervasive and so entrenched that nothing could be done to stop it

In July 2010, the NCAA started  an investigation against the UNC football program.  It revealed a range of gifts given to football players and other improprieties.  UNC lost scholarships and suffered penalties.

The News and Observer reported: "On May 2012, UNC released  a faculty-led report that showed problems in more than 50 African studies classes. The suspect classes included nine in which there was no evidence that a professor taught a course, with forged signatures on submitted grade rolls. In more than 40 other courses, there was little evidence of classroom teaching or other “instructional contact,” according to the review, though the courses were supposed to be lecture classes.”

It was alleged that Julius  Nyang'oro, chairman of the African and African-American studies Dept. had created many of the suspect classes.

Now the fourth person has been arrested as a result of the UNC sports investigation.   On Monday, Nyang’oro was indicted by an Orange County grand jury.  It is alleged that he accepted $12,000 for a university class he did not teach.  He was once the chairman of the African and Afro-American Studies Department.  However, he resigned as chairman in August 2011 and retired in June 2012.  The $12,000 was deducted from his final paycheck, so that shows the university knew he had failed to teach the class.  What was not known was that he would be criminally charged for his misdeed.

The codling of football players was well known as far back as the l940s.   However, I doubt that anyone in those days could foresee the magnitude of the problem as it existed from 2007 through 2011.

As the result of these events, there has been some heavy criticism leveled at the university.   Some has been unwarranted.  Here are a three examples:

-- A condemnation of all UNC professors.   This is grossly unfair and harmful to the reputation of many professors who absolutely would not be a party to these shenanigans. 

-- A condemnation of Chancellor Holden Thorp.  This also lacks substance.  Thorp was an excellent chancellor, a man of integrity who made many good decisions during his time in office.  In fact, he was shocked at some of the allegations of fraud and improprieties. 

-- The idea that UNC dug in its heels and tried to conceal the extent of the fraud and corruption.   Although there was resistance by a few employees of UNC, for the most part UNC responded in good faith and cooperated with the investigation.  The News and Observer made numerous requests for information.   University officials may have been reluctant to respond to the newspaper because they felt that a negative spin would be put on their responses. 

Chancellor Carol Fult was hired from outside the university and was not at the helm when these events were taking place.  She is in an excellent position to keep the university athletic program free from duplicitous influences.  

Jim Woodall, the Orange County district attorney, said another arrest may take place in January.  My hope is, after this decision is made, we can spend more time keeping the UNC athletic program clean, and less time criticizing UNC.  Then, in the future, we can have a reputation for truth and honesty in our university system -- stronger than ever.