It is long past time for an impartial and independent investigation into alleged wrongdoings into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s football and athletics programs. Anyone who holds a degree from a member institution of the University of North Carolina system or is affiliated with the Atlantic Coast Conference deserves as much. The people of the great state of North Carolina deserve as much.
While many UNC boosters and employees want an investigation of the school’s football program to end quickly, the inquiry should not have a set deadline, especially to meet on-the-field or sports-marketing needs. Any rushed attempt to sieve the truth from rumors would inevitably leave important issues unaccounted for, something that would not be in the university’s or the public’s best interest.
An inquiry conducted by an independent body to UNC-Chapel Hill and the innately intertwined University of North Carolina system should look closely into all allegations surrounding the athletics programs at UNC. Its scope should include, but not be limited to, interactions with agents, illegal payments, academic improprieties, the misuse of the Sweet Caroline host program, and recruiting practices – particularly of former UNC Associate Head Football Coach, John Blake, whose shady reputation long preceded his tenure in Chapel Hill.
The investigative body should have the full force of the law on its side with subpoena powers and the power to recommend prosecution if supported by its findings. The team should be given the latitude to follow whatever paths the evidence may lead. That is as it should be, and for the public’s faith to be restored in the fair play of athletic endeavors of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, that is how it must be.
It is true that a multi-pronged NCAA investigation is currently ongoing. Unfortunately, the NCAA has tainted its investigation with the documented involvement of a former UNC football player, double degree holder from the school, and admitted fan of the athletics program as a member of their investigative team!! (Click here for our most recent entry on this topic for background). The proverbial well of impartiality has been poisoned. While Marcus Wilson may be thorough and impartial, his very presence creates a perception of “a man on the inside” of the NCAA – something to which UNC’s fans have made numerous allusions to repeatedly since the NCAA process began.
There is also an investigation ongoing by the State of North Carolina’s Elaine Marshall. But, Marshall is not investigating the University of North Carolina, she is investigating sports agents and laws those agents may have broken. There is a huge difference. In fact, Ms. Marshall could not have been any more clear than she was on the very first day her probe was announced regarding her complete disinterest in investigating UNC-CH:
“We’ll be investigating the agents,” Marshall said said. “We will not be investigating the school [University of North Carolina].”
Marshall, a Maryland alumnus who went to law school at Campbell University, is currently busy running for the US Senate against Richard Burr in a race that is tighter than most expected. If you haven’t figured out that looking for votes to become Senator in the state of North Carolina does not mix well with investigating the state of North Carolina’s most popular University, then consider the logistical issues at play — even if Ms. Marshall were interested in actually getting to the real truth, she could not support the investigation with the appropriate level of oversight from the campaign trail. That leaves her subordinates to do the heavy lifting in the state’s investigation, and that’s where the circle once again loops down NC 54 towards Chapel Hill as her office is filled with Carolina Law diplomates. Once again, there is a huge problem with a perception of impartiality.
Finally, the University itself is investigating allegations of academic impropriety. While UNC-CH surely takes its core mission of education very seriously, it is also wise to remember that the school itself is managed and operated by career bureaucrats who will naturally protect their best interests – themselves. Lisa Broome, UNC’s athletic faculty representative and former faculty rep, Jack Evans, will partner with Chancellor Holden Thorp and Athletics Director, Dick Baddour on the investigation. These are the same people that have been at the University during what appears to be a gross lack of institutional control.
What is the rationale of allowing the people who were not originally controlling the environment to now investigate and police the environment? Isn’t that what they were previously supposed to be doing? What is the incentive for the current UNC investigative team to vigorously pursue nuggets of evidence that may lead them to places and revelations that could permanently damage the reputation of the University that they love and have invested careers in building? What incentive do they have to dig deeper into findings that could very well lead to their institutional embarrassment in addition to their own personal termination of employment, or even legal prosecution?
Looking for leadership from the University of North Carolina system? Look elsewhere. The silence from the systems’ Board of Governors has been so deafening that it has become an embarrassment.
Looking for impartiality from the Atlantic Coast Conference’s office? To this point, the conference office and Commissioner have had very little — if anything — to say about the matter. Then again, how surprising is this silence when the ACC’s Commissioner, John Swofford, is a former UNC-CH quarterback and Athletics Director? Unfortunately, poor Mr. Impartiality needs to keep searching for someone to come to his aid.
What we now know regarding what’s been going on in Chapel Hill reveals a significant need for a full and complete investigation by an independently appointed panel whose results can be revealed to the public following its conclusion.
Perhaps it is time to dust off the original charter of the 1989 Poole Commission, the body that independently investigated NC State in the wake of the Valvano Scandal. That commission and its investigation was not populated by members in good standing with the NC State “Good Ole Boy Network” – instead, it had members from all corners of North Carolina who were interested in getting to the bottom of the then-swirling allegations and putting the light of truth to the problems that surrounded NC State’s men’s basketball program. A new “Poole Commission” to look into UNC football is the only avenue to the truth.
UNC-Chapel Hill graduates and supporters should take note that the 1989 Poole Commission – and the other multiple investigations into NC State University’s issues more than two decades ago – created fantastic results for NC State. At the expense of thousands of man hours and unquantifiable dollars, all of the light possible found no institutionalized cheating or academic fraud within the University. There was no grade fixing. There was no cheating. In short, 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.
The NCAA investigation running simultaneously with the Poole Commission found that NC State players were selling complimentary shoes and tickets, without the coaches’ knowledge. In fact, the NCAA’s lead investigator, Dave Didion, was so appreciative and impressed with (1) the access he received while in Raleigh and (2) the lack of material findings of wrongdoing that he wrote an unprecedented letter to Jim Valvano stating that he would be ‘PROUD’ to have his very own son play for Coach V.
Doesn’t UNC-Chapel Hill and all of its proud graduates deserve the exact same opportunity to clense itself of the stigma and questions that could forever cloud its program and institution that NC State was given? How wonderful would it be for Carolina grads to be able to walk with their head high knowing they were cleared of true institutional scandal like the findings of NC State’s situation twenty years ago?
Without an independent look into what’s really going on in Chapel Hill, we can’t be sure the real truth as to will ever see the light of full public disclosure. The people of this great state deserve that light, and the student-athletes that toil under the baby blue banner deserve their chance to be exonerated; while the guilty deserve the full punishment of college sports’ regulating body, the honor code of the University of North Carolina, and the appropriate state and federal laws.
Otherwise, any lip service UNC-CH gives to valuing education above all else rings hollow and means nothing. It is time to really find out if the “Carolina Way” means anything other than “Don’t ask, don’t tell”.