North Carolina’s football program received notice of nine potential major violations yesterday. Individually, the charges weren’t revelations, but the collective load adds some new heft to the scandal. The Tar Heels more extensive charges than USC or Ohio State, but the public outcry is mitigated. No one cares about North Carolina football.
Here are the basic allegations.
Employing a Runner: John Blake was a runner who steered players toward now-deceased agent Gary Wichard. He received $31,000 in outside income he didn’t report. He also did not disclose a $45,000 payment from 2007.
Improper Benefits: Multiple players accepted around $27,000 in improper benefits during 2009 and 2010 from agents, former players, financial advisers and “Willie.”
Academic Issues: A tutor committed academic fraud, writing parts of and doing research for papers. Jennifer Wiley provided 142 hours of free tutoring, a $150 airline ticket and paid $1,789 in parking fines. She also tried to evade the investigation.
Obstruction: A redacted player, likely Marvin Austin, misled investigators about who paid for trips he took in 2009 and 2010.
Failure to Monitor: The university didn’t monitor the players (social networking) or the use of the facilities adequately. They should have recognized evidence of violations and investigated. Crucially, this was “failure to monitor,” a lesser charge than “lack of institutional control.”
Before getting into the practical ramifications, I’m through crucifying players for accepting benefits deemed a job perk for those employed by an athletic department in other capacities. How many flights on a private jet did the North Carolina AD take during those two years? How many frolics? How many lavish banquets? How many free rounds of golf? How many administrators and coaches have their car leases taken care of? Is anyone paying to watch them do their jobs?
It’s fine that the people who look like me and come from a similar socioeconomic background to me profit blatantly. Yet, I’m supposed to be outraged by a star football or basketball player, likely poor and black, taking a trip to Miami or California or meeting with a prospective agent who is going to handle his obvious financial future? A player accepting $3,800 worth of goods and services is the system’s bane when Butch Davis, a public employee, makes more than $2 million per year? That’s ludicrous. Rant over.
What happens to North Carolina? We still have months of deliberations and hearings before actual sanctions. The violations are serious in their own right and startling when taken collectively. Agents, academic fraud and improper benefits are each major areas of concern for the NCAA. Then there’s the failure to monitor all three.
Undoubtedly, the Tar Heels will vacate wins for fielding ineligible players from 2008 to 2010. This will be meaningful, if Butch Davis ever looks at a record book. UNC will try to dump as much of the blame (with plausible validity) on Blake and Wiley. They can also claim to have been cooperative and vigilant rooting out the problems since they emerged. They should face scholarship reductions and a postseason ban as well, potentially up to USC level.
What happens to Butch Davis? He was lucky. The NCAA just charged his program with major violations, but he’s not directly listed or involved with any of them. Broadly, he’s the guy in charge. He can make an empty claim that he takes full responsibility, but there’s no failure specifically pinned on him, especially if the NCAA considers Blake to have acted surreptitiously. UNC did not fire Davis when the allegations initially emerged. Firing him doesn’t help their NCAA case. He probably remains unless public outcry demands a scapegoat.
Has the coverage been fair? Fans of Ohio State, USC and Auburn have to be pissed. Their schools received far more scrutiny for their real or potential violations that were less extensive and arguably less serious. Some of this is the nature of UNC’s scandal. It was multiple independent issues, rather than something with a singular focal point, such as Pryor, Newton or Reggie Bush. Most of it is that few people care. It’s a non-traditional football school. They haven’t won more than eight games since Mack Brown was there in 1997. Greatness being humanized is a sexy cover story. Mediocrity? Not so much.
[Photo via Getty]