Stop me if you've heard this one before.
If you were looking for any new news this week about UNC's AFAM academic scandal you will be sorely disappointed. In lieu of actual news we get a hearing on the media's lawsuit against UNC and a breathless headline about something everyone knew four months ago.
First up the public records lawsuit brought by the media against UNC and Buch Davis. As you might recall the media is seeking Davis' personal cell phone records as well as an additional release of information in the NCAA reports previously redacted.
After listening to nearly two hours of arguments, the decision by North Carolina Superior Court Judge Howard Manning on the release of public records by the University of North Carolina was that there will not be a decision Thursday.
Lawyers representing UNC, former head football coach Butch Davis and a collective of media outlets, including WRAL, argued the public nature of records related to a recent NCAA investigation into the UNC football program. Included in those documents are Davis’ personal cell phone records that he used largely for university business.
Davis was issued a university phone but previously released records show that he did not use it, opting instead to use his personal phone. Attorney’s representing the media have argued that because Davis was a public figure and the phone was being used to conduct business for the public, state university, those records are public.
The media also wants the reports, interviews and other materials related to the NCAA investigation released without heavy redaction. UNC has made hundreds of pages available but not without omitting sections including anything that would identify the student-athletes in question. Under the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act, certain information about students is kept private however the media, in this case, is saying FERPA does not apply to the part of the investigation pertaining to impermissible benefits. Manning has yet to make a decision since the redacted documents would require review and also knowing that no matter what decision he makes, it will be appealed means he will probably spend some time writing the decision.
The News and Observer decided to liven up Friday with a breathless headline that was latched onto various national outlets as though it was something new and exciting.
UNC star Nicks ineligible during 2008 season, records show
Wow! What a bombshell!
Except it isn't new or a bombshell of any sort. If you read the final report from the NCAA on UNC's various transgressions(and clearly most people didn't) you know that there was an instance of academic fraud that made "Student-athlete 1" ineligible during the 2008 season. "Student-athlete 1" was Hakeem Nicks as born out by context gleaned from the impermissible benefits portion of the report. Due to Nicks participation in the 2008 season, UNC vacated the win from that year and according to the penalties section of the report also meant any individual stats would be vacated as well.
The N&O piece today makes hay of the fact UNC is now acknowledging that is the case by saying an asterisk would be placed by Nicks' various school records. Why this qualifies as news or a breathless headline which was immediately picked up by other outlets is a genuine mystery. After all, Doc laid all of this out the very day the report was released in March.
As for the current scandal involving the AFAM department, the UNC Board of Governors has convened a five person panel to review the school's investigation into the matter. This is not an independent investigation but rather the BOG doing their required oversight. The assumption is should the panel find the internal investigation lacking or be less that satisfied with the results the BOG could go the route of launching an independent probe.
The vacation of the 2008 and 2009 seasons is pretty much a hollow consequence except in one area: the NCAA requires the individual records of ineligible student-athletes to wiped out. As Brian pointed out to me last night, since it has been determined that Hakeem Nicks played while ineligible in 2008, his last year in essence doesn’t count and while Dwight Jones eclipsed some of his school records, the remaining ones (or at least those from 2008) will be wiped out.
My guess is the final report does not get much in-depth reading in most of these cases. The focus when the NCAA reads the final report is on the penalties meted out. Writers and columnists are too busy figuring out if they should hand wring over the penalties or pat the NCAA on the back. No one, except Doc and I apparently, broke down the details to the point we knew Nicks was tagged for academic fraud, was ineligible and UNC would vacate wins and stats as a result.
The question is why no one at the N&O realized it or is this a means of fanning the flame on the scandal as a whole to keep it in the public view. Whatever the case, hyping information that appeared in a report released four months ago is not the best look in the world.