There was a mix of celebration and a sigh of relief emanating from Chapel Hill on Friday when news at last arrived that UNC’s vaunted athletics program will suffer no longer from what has now been demonstrated to be a prosecution built on lies.
Over in Raleigh at the once venerable News & Observer, the butthurt was apparent and a wake underway as five years of misleading and over-the-top reporting — and opinion pieces based on the same — were exposed. The newspaper could publish an apology for every one of its hit pieces and the damage could never be undone. The paper that once called for Roy Williams to resign should be asking that from those who tirelessly worked to advance this canard.
In fact, as this is written, the newspaper has already doubled-down, and questioned why the NCAA did not go hard after North Carolina’s flagship institution. It is an incredible position the newspaper took — and it could soon choke on karma.
The reason the NCAA didn’t come down hard on UNC — or even with an open-handed slap — is because it couldn’t. The NCAA, after five years, reluctantly we believe, acknowledged the problems at UNC were academic and largely the work of two rogue employees, and an athletics program could not be held at fault because a disproportionate number of student-athletes took advantage of non-rigorous — not fake — classes. If the NCAA had strayed from its own bylaws, it would have likely been blown up in court, and been discarded as a fraction of its former self.
There will be those who say UNC skated, certainly the N&O and rival fans, but no, UNC was falsely accused and prosecuted. A double-digit number of investigations has failed to support the N&O’s false narrative, that coaches and counselors at UNC were complicit in ushering athletes into easy classes in an effort to keep them eligible.
There is no way to accurately measure the damage done to the academic and athletic reputations of one of the nation’s most esteemed public universities, but we will minimize it by calling it Milky Way-like. How many times in the last five years did UNC get dragged through the cow pasture by television commentators during athletic events who depended — and were ultimately betrayed — by the reporting of others?
It is a stain that cannot be vanquished.
We keep saying five years because that is when the NCAA rebooted its investigation, 2012. Many conflate the academic scandal with problems with the football program that arose in 2010, which revealed improper dalliances between some players and agents.
Although not a single coach was implicated, UNC fired its entire football staff and before the carnage was over, the chancellor and athletics director were gone. UNC self-imposed sanctions, sat out a bowl game, was denied a division crown in football, and reduced scholarships.
All that was as it should have been.
But it had nothing to do with the academic scandal.
We know not everyone is happy, but there is something that all should cheer.
During a time when black and white often devolves into gray, the NCAA showed itself capable of following its own bylaws, which simply say the organization has no jurisdiction over academics. Although a strict following of the law should always be the expectation, in this instance there was doubt.
Everyone should be happy to know that some rules still apply.