I'm a graduate of UNC and as a former sportscaster with a blog that has taken shots at
athletes and institutions over the past few years, a lot of people wanted my opinion
about the school and athletic program which was recently outed for steering
'student-athletes' into bogus classes to remain eligible.
I don't care.
UNC and the athletic program have now become fodder for the late night talk shows,
sports talk radio, internet chat rooms, and columnists across the country. They are
being lampooned and criticized much the same way Rutgers was after the Mike
Rice basketball throwing scandal and the cover-up that ensued. UNC is now getting a
healthy dose of it from this college sports-obsessed world.
It doesn't bother me.
As part of the school and athletic program back in the 1980's, UNC had a squeaky-clean
reputation. Scandal was as foreign to everyone in Chapel Hill as those African-American
classes were to more than 3,000 'student-athletes' over an 18-year period. The face of
UNC at the time was Dean Smith, a man of impeccable integrity and a basketball legend
who would have an arena named after him while he was still coaching. Talk about respect
and honor. He was UNC's shield, a saint on the sideline who protected the school's
reputation and deflected the poisonous arrows from anyone who wanted to criticize it.
Did things go on at UNC that weren't always on the up-an-up when I went to school
there? Absolutely.We often saw football players from low socio-economic backgrounds
driving around campus in shiny BMW's. These guys were dressed like Bart Simpson but
drove stylish cars better fit for James Bond. I heard of cheating scandals within certain
athletic programs but nothing ever really came of it. I just always felt that UNC
did a better job of hiding things 'under the rug' or were just too smart to get caught
by the NCAA or anyone else.
The perception of the school in the bucolic town of Chapel Hill sure changed last week
with the scathing report about bogus classes. UNC had suddenly become one of them, you
know, the USC's, Oklahoma's, Georgia's, Miami's, Michigan's, Florida State's, and all
those other programs who were caught doing things they shouldn't be doing.
Was I surprised? Not one bit. The money in NCAA sports has gotten so outrageous
everybody wants to stick their hands deep in the pot of gold. They get greedy and they
cheat. And anybody whose had a pulse on the sports world has long known that cheating
is part of the big game. It happened in recruiting long before the NCAA was up and
running. Lack of institutional control among programs across the nation became as
popular of a term as "selfie's" and a nation seemingly obsessed with them.
UNC really sold its soul when it hired Butch Davis nearly a decade ago. Davis was an
accomplished football coach, but one who seemed to have a little black cloud trailing
behind from his days running the program at 'The U', also known as the University of
Miami. And when Davis brought along John Blake, an assistant coach and recruiter who
had done some shady things at Oklahoma, I knew the school and program were headed
down the wrong road and was hardly surprised when UNC football landed on probation.
I knew about the reputation of Davis and Blake from afar and it's just mind-boggling
to me that administrators who made the decisions didn't know about them or just
chose to look past just for the sake of a few more wins a season. The color of money
can blind a lot of people and the folks with the power at UNC sure could've used guide
dogs during those times.
Do I care about the scandal at UNC? Not really. After seeing the child sex abuse scandal
play out at Penn State, I feel college sports went as low as it could possibly go. There will
never, ever be any scandal in college sports that will surpass the one that took down
Joe Paterno. It not only smeared the squeaky-clean image of the program, but smashed
the logo it lived by: "win with honor."
The president and entire athletic administration at Penn State put the reputation of the
school and football program ahead of the welfare of a lot of innocent children, allowing
them to be violated on and off-campus by a sexual predator named Jerry Sandusky.
Even more shocking, they all tried to cover it up. It cost them all their jobs and put a
stain on Penn State that will never go away, no matter how hard anyone on campus tries
to scrub it.
There seems to be controversy so often in college sports that I've become immune to
the reaction to them. Jameis Winston of Florida State has ignited more than scandals
than I can count and they seemingly came on the heels of all those involving
Johnny Manziel. In 2012, Harvard, yes, Harvard, had a cheating scandal involving
nearly half the students in a government course. The basketball team captain was
allegedly involved and sat out an entire season.
I am not a UNC cheerleader. I don't live and die with every win or loss and can't
remember the last time I watched a football and basketball game on television. Maybe
it's because I'm almost 30 years removed from graduating or life's hardships have
just put things in proper perspective.
It was a privilege and an honor to play baseball at UNC and wear Carolina blue.
I met phenomenal people and nearly all my teammates were of great character. I value
my degree from there and love it when people ask me where I went and the "Oh, man,
that's a great school" response after I tell them. I have terrific memories and will
always, no matter what, be proud that I went to Carolina. It is a great school. Always
has been, always will be. This too shall pass.
UNC and Chapel Hill are very special places on the outside, but inside the athletic
program they are just like a lot of other schools around the country. The big money
in college sports has changed things for a lot of people. Money usually does that.
People get greedy, they forget about their moral compass, and try to push the envelope.
It happened at UNC, just as it's happened at many other big name schools across
UNC got caught and now they have to pay the price however steep it may be.