UNC, a Final Four Participant on Shaky Ground

-Matt Magill


North Carolina Pic

Two years ago, Syracuse University, as they were being investigated by the NCAA for misconduct, self-imposed a postseason ban.  They wound up receiving a harsh penalty for academic infractions that is still reverberating through the program.

Last year, The University of Louisville, as they were being investigated by the NCAA for misconduct, self-imposed a postseason ban.  They wound up receiving a middling penalty for using strippers and prostitutes in their recruitment process.

This year, the University of North Carolina, as they are being investigated by the NCAA for misconduct, is playing in its second consecutive Final Four.  The allegations against the University include creating fake classes, which were widely used by the men’s football and basketball programs to retain academic eligibility during their respective seasons.

What’s wrong with this picture?

First of all, the toothless monster that is the NCAA really needs to get their act together regarding the schools under their umbrella.  The fact that three years in a row we are seeing these allegations emerge against major college programs (and that’s only the ones that have emerged, we’re not even talking about the shady things going on behind the scenes that aren’t out in the open, nor are we talking about other incidents like the Baylor Football scandal) shows that the inmates are kind of running the asylum.  Sure, policing that many schools is not going to be easy, but swift, consistent and lasting punishment should be part of the process to prevent these kinds of things from happening.  Taking away a coach’s wins (as they did with Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim) is a ridiculous, empty gesture.  Taking away scholarships and postseason availability (which the NCAA also does), now that’s more of a longstanding punishment.

I actually commend UNC for fighting this, knowing that the NCAA is a wimpy organization in general.  May they bring the hammer down on the institution and the men’s basketball and football programs?  Maybe.  But until then it’s apparently business as usual.  The fact that the investigation by the NCAA and its ability to punish the universities in question takes so long to implement, means that the only students receiving said punishment usually have very little, if anything at all to do with the infraction.

Looking back at the Syracuse case, Rakeem Christmas, the lone senior on the Orange the year of their self-imposed postseason ban, was not a part of the allegations in question.  In fact, all of the athletes that were had moved on to greener pastures by then.  Christmas was then made the default fall guy as his senior season ended with no hope of postseason play.  Granted, the ‘Cuse were not blowing anyone out of the water that season and probably were not looking at a deep tournament run, but that’s no reason to deprive the players, especially those that stay for four years, the opportunity to enter the tournament.

The question with UNC, at least for me, is what will become of them once this investigation finally concludes?  Is Roy Williams (the UNC men’s basketball coach) squeezing out as much good-will with the top brass through multiple deep tournament runs in an effort to gain some favor if things go poorly and the NCAA drops the hammer?  Is Williams just trying to pad his resume so he can hand-pick his next job if UNC lets him go when the hammer falls (or if he leaves, because really, a coach with his track record and at his age is not going to sit idly through a multi-season tournament ban and crippling sanctions)?  Until then, will Williams just continue to steer the Tarheels to Final Four and Championship game appearances like nothing is wrong?  Is the real problem here the fact that the NCAA takes so long with their investigations that they are unable to really exact any meaningful change?  I was really looking to hammer North Carolina for pretending nothing is wrong when I started this article, and now I realize that it’s actually the NCAA that I have the issue with (okay, I’ve always had an issue with the NCAA, I just thought this time I would be able to direct my ire in a different direction).

So while we await a decision from the NCAA, North Carolina is going to just continue to do what North Carolina does.


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