“Spirit, not the letter of the law”

Here’s what the UNC System President had to say regarding accusations made against one of North Carolina’s flagship universities:

Athletics and academics are in tension by the nature of their time demands, but athletics and academics cannot be allowed to be in conflict in a great university. The evidence is clear that the academic processes and standards…have been misused in a number of instances to benefit some individual…players.

Problem is, these comments weren’t directed at a lack of academic and institutional oversight by the University of North Carolina or its coaching staffs. No, these were the comments made by former UNC System President C.D. Spangler regarding the investigation into academic impropriety within Jim Valvano’s basketball program, as reported by Duke grad and longtime area ACC sportswriter Barry Jacobs on August 26, 1989. More precisely, the quote is as follows:

Athletics and academics are in tension by the nature of their time demands, but athletics and academics cannot be allowed to be in conflict in a great university. The evidence is clear that the academic processes and standards of North Carolina State University have been misused in a number of instances to benefit some individual basketball players.

Spangler further added that the investigation revealed only that the “spirit, not the letter of the law” was broken regarding the accusations. Yet, he requested that Jim Valvano resign as State’s Athletic Director anyway. (We discuss more of Valvano and NC State’s ultimate exoneration in this editorial that cannot be missed and needs to be forwarded and sent all over the State of North Carolina):

Spangler’s report faulted Valvano for failure to provide adequate oversight of players’ academic progress and for encouraging course loads designed to maintain athletic eligibility rather than to form ”a coherent program of study.” Valvano was further criticized for recruiting players who had no reasonable expectation of graduation.

While the NCAA investigated NC State in 1989, the Poole Commission was formed and the Attorney General got the SBI involved to investigate potential financial infractions. Only minor infractions were found, namely the sale of shoes and game tickets by State basketball players, of which the coaching staff was found to have no knowledge. Yet, Jimmy V was vilified as evil incarnate for harboring an environment lacking oversight and control while the local media, the UNC Board of Governors, C.D. Spangler — and, unfortunately, many within the NC State community — spewed vitriol freely upon his name for it.

For the record, there were no implications of players cheating or improper assistance by any tutors at Jim Valvano’s NC State. There was no institutionalized cheating or academic fraud within the University. There was no grade-fixing. Players who did not deserve to matriculate or graduate were, in fact, not graduating and therefore not destroying the value of the diploma that so many hang so proudly. Nor were there accusations that agents were paying for players’ trips to Miami or California or funneling money through coaches to players.

And, most importantly, it seems that few folks recognize that every sanction leveled upon the State Basketball program was self-imposed by the University, and that the NCAA found this internal punishment satisfactory.

As I wrote on this blog in December 2008:

[T]he NCAA had been satisfied with the university’s internal corrective and punitive actions for the minor violations the Poole Commission had uncovered, which had included tighter restrictions over ticket and shoe distributions to players, limitations of off-campus recruiting visits, Valvano’s resignation as athletic director, and most crippling, a reduction in scholarships for three years. The NCAA also leveled the maximum two-year probation and barred State from participating in the 1990 NCAA Tournament…

One of the many questions that remains unanswered isn’t about the accusations, but rather the “review” itself. In 1989, the investigation was multi-faceted, including seperate inquiries by the NCAA, The Poole Commission, and also the Attorney General’s office into the University. So why is there no protocol for doing the same when accusations have been leveled against Carolina when, clearly, the precedent for this type of investigation exists?

State’s comparatively minor infractions and self-imposed sanctions left the program crippled, staggering along the ACC floor for a decade as it tried to recover.

Just imagine how bad it would’ve been if we’d done things “The Carolina Way.”

About LRM

Charter member of the Lunatic Fringe and a fan, loyal to a fault.

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56 Responses to “Spirit, not the letter of the law”

  1. packpowerfan 09/08/2010 at 12:23 PM #

    I hate them. I hate UNX, and the way this entire SNAFU has been handled is a big reason why. Maybe, finally, they will slip into the chasm they’ve been “secretly” teetering on for decades.

  2. Elrod 09/08/2010 at 12:55 PM #

    This article should be required reading for every person associated with this investigation AND every person logging onto IC.

  3. bradleyb123 09/08/2010 at 12:56 PM #

    The thing is, when they finally DO go down (and I firmly believe they will now), their fans will still deny any wrongdoing.

  4. packpowerfan 09/08/2010 at 12:56 PM #

    Thought this was an interesting article from the Charlotte Observer about UNC no longer being able to condescend for running a clean program.

    http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2010/09/08/1675240/north-carolina-no-longer-has-a.html?pageNum=2&mi_pluck_action=page_nav#Comments_Container

  5. bradleyb123 09/08/2010 at 12:57 PM #

    Btw, well done on this article.

  6. highstick 09/08/2010 at 1:23 PM #

    I’ve absolutely detested CD Spangler since then. I hope this is the “payback” to that rotten SOB!

  7. wolfbuff 09/08/2010 at 2:12 PM #

    All, let’s be honest, we State fans have been in denial and blaming everyone from CD Spangler to the N&O for our problems in basketball. The fact is that Jimmy V, while not evil incarnate, did operate a program that was lacking in oversight, which in turn led to players doing things such as selling shoes and tickets. I think his undoing was that he spread himself too thin. And, come on. Yes, he did bring in players that had no reasonable chance of graduating. The faculty, not liking the rock star status Valvano had, took it as an opportunity to vilify him and take the athletic department down a notch or two. So, CD, N&O, or Poole Commission notwithstanding, we did in ourselves.

    That being said, if what we’re hearing about UNC is true, their crimes are way more heinous than anything we did in our basketball program in the 80s. They are breaking both the spirit and letter of the law in many ways. And while the deserve more punishment than we got, that is going to depend on how much they truly want to change, which is going to require that they open up and let the independent investigations proceed.

  8. Phang 09/08/2010 at 2:22 PM #

    “he fact is that Jimmy V, while not evil incarnate, did operate a program that was lacking in oversight, which in turn led to players doing things such as selling shoes and tickets. I think his undoing was that he spread himself too thin.”

    While this is true, remember that not only was Jimmy V the head BB coach, he was also the AD, and an on-the-air commentator for ESPN, all at the same time. That’s too much for any one person to handle.

    That would not have happened except that the NCSU administrations was still drunk on the ’83 championship. This is the same institutional hubris that is killing UNC now.

    I think Jimmy V was a great coach and a good man. I blame the administration for the Jimmy V “scandal”, and that’s why having the NCSU administration gut the program afterwards was so painful to watch.

    But it’ll be fun watching it happen at UNC!

  9. packplantpath 09/08/2010 at 2:26 PM #

    buff, one question. I largely agree.

    But, which is worse, recruiting players who have no chance of graduating who move on to the NBA without graduating, or recruiting players with no chance of graduating who graduate and move on to the NFL and score slightly above illiterate on the wonderlic

  10. StateFans 09/08/2010 at 2:27 PM #

    V was not a commentator for ESPN while he was a coach.

    He had a little variety television show that I think aired on ESPN some…but, he was not an on-the-air-commentator until after he was finished coaching.

  11. Mike 09/08/2010 at 2:28 PM #

    At first, when I saw a quote from Spangler, I am thinking another instance of the fox guarding the hen house. Then I read further and realized it was us he was talking about.

    I was in school from 85-89 and trust me, V did violate the spirit of the law. You dont want to know what I know, but we will leave it at that. Now, having said that, our situation is nothing compared to what is going on at UNX. They have broken spirit AND law.

  12. Phang 09/08/2010 at 2:29 PM #

    @statesfan – thanks for the correction. I just remembered he was doing on the air stuff at ESPN while still a coach.

  13. StateFans 09/08/2010 at 2:32 PM #

    But, which is worse, recruiting players who have no chance of graduating who move on to the NBA without graduating, or recruiting players with no chance of graduating who graduate and move on to the NFL and score slightly above illiterate on the wonderlic

    ^This is what I’ve been saying for 25 years. And, is huge blow to conventional wisdom that loves to talk about ‘graduation rates’ as if it is a GOOD THING that dumb kids can graduate from your institution!

    We ALL recruit the exact same players.

    Why was it bad that our dummies never could graduate while the same dummies could skate by at other schools?

  14. coach13 09/08/2010 at 2:42 PM #

    I came in Fall of 90…the beginning of the end. It’s fortunate that, though there was money in it then, it probably would have been worse for us if the money was there like it is now.

    I digress. I simply want the same kind of justice we got at a bare minimum.

  15. SaccoV 09/08/2010 at 2:47 PM #

    Statefans, although Valvano didn’t work with ESPN while still coaching, he did do some commentary on Sunday games on CBS with Billy Packer and Brent Musberger. I remember specifically a game he did with Al Maguire because of the heavy New-Yorican accent of both guys.

  16. wolfbuff 09/08/2010 at 2:48 PM #

    “But, which is worse, recruiting players who have no chance of graduating who move on to the NBA without graduating, or recruiting players with no chance of graduating who graduate and move on to the NFL and score slightly above illiterate on the wonderlic”

    I’ve always maintained that it’s harder to get into UNC but harder to graduate from NC State. They skate their athletes and non-athletes through. You actually have to study and earn your degree at NC State. Their aura of Ivy Leagueness bewilders me.

  17. Daily Update 09/08/2010 at 3:02 PM #

    Great piece LRM.

  18. packof81 09/08/2010 at 3:02 PM #

    The hypocrisy of UNC is breathtaking and perhaps pathological. Maybe they just can’t bring themselves to do the right thing. They need assistance.

  19. wufpup76 09/08/2010 at 3:04 PM #

    I largely agree with wolfbuff. If you don’t give the media et al anywhere to go then they won’t. The situation was there to be exploited.

    However, Jimmy V and NCSU more than paid the price for whatever sins they / we committed.

    With that said, in regards to the Unx situation I want / demand the same scrutiny with the same vitriol by all associated parties. Anything less or different means some institutions and people get to play by a different set of rules.

    I don’t want only justice, I want blood.

    What’s good for one …

  20. highstick 09/08/2010 at 3:05 PM #

    And you can bet CD Spangler knew the same crap was going on in Chapel Hill, but he had a vendetta “right or wrong” and that’s what makes him such a jackass! Remember, he was born and bred in the Carolina Way!

    What say ye fellows about Coach K? Does he have his hands full?? Multi-talented or maybe he doesn’t have to worry about his exceptional brain trust on the Duke BBall team so he can take on extra activities???

    I agree that V had too much on his plate, but did what followed remedy that situation? Heck No!

  21. Hungwolf 09/08/2010 at 3:06 PM #

    Great article. I was at NCSU when Valvano was coach and won it all. Hard to compare the academic environment then to now. Plus hard to compare NCSU back then to other schools including UNC. UNC had programs for dropping failing grades when you passed the class the next time etc. at the time. NCSU had no such programs, the grade stayed in the GPA. The graduation rate at NCSU as a whole in the 80s was terrible. In defense of V, his graduation rates for his minority players was higher than the university’s grad rate for the same minorities as a whole during his time as coach and that does not include those that went back and got degreess. Who was graduating B-ball players in the early 80′s anyway? Worthy, and Jordan left early, any degrees were obtained years later. V was not recruiting anyone that other schools didn’t want, yes even Dean recruited Washburn, so Spangler’s comments were unprofessional and not accurate in my opinion.

    What V was doing that no one mentions at the time was changing the way coaches signed contracts with universities. He was leader in what is now common place which is guaranteed contracts. Coach K was even a client. This prcatice alone put a target on his back and is why I think Spangler and UNC-BOG used the language that “they were not going to honor his contract” to send him a message!

  22. JeremyH 09/08/2010 at 3:10 PM #

    In the back of my mind I was wondering about how the current UNCC scandal compares with our own scandal with Jim Valvano, in terms of discovered violations and subsequent penalties. Thanks. This is definitely something to keep track of.

  23. Phang 09/08/2010 at 3:19 PM #

    The worst they found with Jimmy V was selling sneakers & tickets, without the knowledge of the coaching staff. The NCAA investigator said something like he’d be proud to have Jim Valvano coach his son.

    The NCAA investigators at unc are going to need level 4 hazmat suits and dawn dish washing detergent after completing the unc investigation.

    btw – I was at the Duke game in Reynolds where Jimmy V said his goodbyes. Not a dry eye in the house.

    @highstick – Spangler, N&O, the SBI & the NCSU administration went way overboard in their investigation and solutions to the problem.

  24. LRM 09/08/2010 at 3:29 PM #

    I’d contend that how the investigation has been handled is just as important as any wrongdoings that are eventually discovered. The Carolina Good Ol’ Boy Network has taken it upon themselves to conduct a righteous “review.”

    Why isn’t the enormity of our investigation being used as the precedent? Why the double standard?

    Why are these kinds of tough questions only being asked (until recently) by bloggers and casual fans?

  25. wufpup76 09/08/2010 at 3:35 PM #

    ^My thoughts exactly LRM.

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