As more bad news comes to light about UNC, the storied university looks poised to enter the darkest chapter in its 225-year existence.
Let me be frank right up front: I have been a Carolina fan for more than 30 years. The first basketball game I ever watched was during UNC’s march to the 1982 national title, and I’ve been a hoops junkie ever since.
But even a blue blood like me cannot ignore all the problems that have come out of Chapel Hill in the past few years.
Let’s look at the most recent first. Shooting guard P.J. Hairston throws a punch at a 17-year-old during a pickup game at the YMCA over the same weekend that he loans his car to an NFL friend with well-known problems of his own.
Cleveland Browns receiver Josh Gordon was arrested for driving under the influence while already facing a possible season-long suspension from the NFL for a second drug violation.
The arresting officer said Gordon seemed very intoxicated, but he blew only .09 on the breathalyzer, which is barely above the legal limit of .08, which would seem to indicate that Gordon was on more than just alcohol. Gordon was kicked off two college football teams for failing drug tests and missed two games last season due to suspension for drug use.
And this is the person to whom Hairston loans his car overnight. Gordon was caught speeding 50 in a 35 mph zone at 3 a.m.
And who bails this offender out of jail? Why the same Haydn “Fats” Thomas who helped get Hairston suspended from the UNC basketball team.
Thomas, a convicted felon, rented cars in his name for Hairston to drive. These types of impermissible benefits cost Hairston a chance to play for the Tar Heels this past season and likely hurt his draft position as well.
The sweet-shooting guard might have been a lottery pick, but slid to 26 because of concerns about his character.
Obviously, you can’t judge an entire university off the actions of one bad apple. If Hairston were the only problem, then you could argue that even a pristine school isn’t immune to the occasional troublemaker.
However, look at the recent interview that former UNC guard Rashad McCants gave to ESPN.
In case you missed it, McCants provided a copy of his transcripts that showed that more than half of all the classes he took at UNC were “paper classes” or courses where he wasn’t required to attend class to get a grade, just submit a final paper.
McCants said he wasn’t the only member of the basketball team to take advantage of the courses and that head coach Roy Williams knew about it. Members of the football team also took part in these classes.
Out of 28 classes on his transcript, only 10 of them were regular classes that he was required to attend. In those 10 classes, McCants received six C’s, one D and three F’s.
In his African-American paper classes, his grades were 10 A’s, six B’s, one C and one D.
Williams expressed “shock” and “disbelief” over the allegations, saying he had no knowledge of McCants’ grades and classes.
I find this extremely unlikely. And if it were true, then it would seem to show a significant apathy toward Williams’ own players.
I have written dozens of stories about local players going off to college. Whenever I talk to the college coach, that person (man or woman) always mentions grades and getting an education. The coaches say they keep a close watch on academic standing, and if a player isn’t performing in the classroom, the coaches hear about it.
At a top-tier Division I powerhouse like UNC, I find it very unlikely that the coaching staff didn’t know exactly what was going on with these paper classes.
I have been very outspoken in the past about how disgraceful it was that the NCAA turned a blind eye to the recruiting violations at Duke concerning Corey Maggette.
In case you don’t recall, from April 1997 to August 1997, summer basketball coach Myron Piggie made cash payments to Maggette totaling $2,000. The money came from a revenue pool that included donations to Piggie from professional sports agents Kevin Poston and Jerome Stanley.
Three years later, Piggie would come clean and admit that he gave this money to Maggette. At first, the young man (by then playing in the NBA) denied the allegations, but later admitted he accepted the money.
By the NCAA’s own rules, Duke should have forfeited every win the team had while Maggette was playing, when the team went 37-2 and made it to the NCAA tournament championship. This is what happened to the Fab Five team of Michigan once news came out about Chris Webber accepting payments; the same for the 38 wins that Memphis earned in 2008 with Derrick Rose after Rose allowed someone else to take his SAT to gain entry to the school.
The NCAA never stripped Duke of those wins, and maybe somehow the ruling body will pretend not to notice UNC’s violations. But in today’s society, with Internet news sites churning out stories week after week, somehow I doubt the NCAA will be allowed to play dumb.
And as a North Carolina resident whose tax dollars help provide support to this state university, I hope the NCAA does step in and bring down the hammer because we deserve to have a sports team for whom we can cheer.