UNC-Chapel Hill will not face sanctions over a pickup game Tuesday.
The men’s basketball team played with Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in violation of a rule that coaches are not allowed to watch pickup games during the offseason.
Division I basketball teams are also prohibited from any mandatory athletically related offseason activities through final exams, which began Monday.
The N&O report that Coach Roy Williams “knew he wasn’t supposed to be at the Smith Center practice gym under” â€” get this â€” “the letter of the NCAA rules.” He was, of course, allowed to beg off by declaring “extraordinary circumstances.” The NCAA, not always inclined to give area teams the benefit of the doubt or to bend “the letter of NCAA rules” to common sense and decency, of course fell into lockstep immediately.
“This was a unique situation and not an NCAA issue,” NCAA media relations director Erik Christianson said in an e-mail. “It certainly was a great opportunity for the student-athletes to interact with a presidential candidate.”
I will not dispute that that is pretty much how I view it myself. On the other hand, that is not at all how the NCAA has operated in like situations, when common sense has differed from the letter of their rules. They have often been quick to spot the unfair advantage, and one could also be seen here (the first commenter to the N&O story, in fact, sees that this was an unfair advantage).
The NCAA has been quick to spot unfair advantages before, but only when they had been inclined to look, an inclination that depends, it seems, on the school involved.
Update: Here’s another perspective on the issue from Jeff Taylor at The MeckDeck, who accuses the NCAA of “situational ethics” and says this incident is more confirmation that the NCAA is a political body, “winking its face off at a clear violation of the organizationâ€™s rules just because a political candidate is involved”:
Everyone knows â€” or should know â€” that Iâ€™m completely in the tank for the Tar Heels. Yet their pick-up game yesterday with Barack Obama, watched from the sidelines by coach Roy Williams, totally violated the ban on coaches watching players during a NCAA â€œblackoutâ€ period.
The N&O reports today that the NCAA will take no action because of the â€œuniqueâ€ nature of the situation. Well, excuse me, but the NCAA is a past master of enforcing the letter of the law on countless unique situations, most involving absolutely no intent to break the rules or gain an advantage.