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Greg Little: UNC Shouldn't Have To Vacate Wins

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Well there shouldn't have been a lot of things but here we are.

Former Tar Heel WR Greg Little has told Fox Ohio that he does not think the wins from the 2008 and 2009 season should be vacated because UNC did not use ineligible players.

Former North Carolina wide receiver Greg Little said his former school's administration overreacted by vacating 16 wins from the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

"Players weren't ineligible during 2008 and 2009," Little said after practice with the Cleveland Browns, where he plays as an NFL rookie. "They were ineligible for the 2010 season. And those players that were ineligible didn't play."

Little was one of those players. Fourteen players missed one game, seven had to sit out the entire season — and four of them were dismissed or ruled ineligible by the NCAA. Little was ruled ineligible after the NCAA determined he had received improper extra benefits. Little was found to have received almost $5,000 in extra benefits, including diamond earrings and travel accommodations to the Bahamas, Washington, D.C., and Miami, according to USA Today.

The violations took place as far back as 2008, though. Those included playing seven players in 2009 after they had received receiving improper benefits, and employing a tutor who wrote parts of papers and works for players in ‘08 and ‘09.

Except UNC did use ineligible players they just didn't know at the time they were which leads us to the age-old debate about the logic of this particular NCAA penalty. I am not a big fan of vacating wins but at the same time I think the penalty itself is mischaracterized, especially in the media. John Infante, also known as @bylawblog on Twitter explored the theory and practice of vacating wins with some interesting points raised.

But one thing most scholars will agree on is that sports are a subset of games. Games are distinguished from play by the existence of rules. The most important of those rules are the rules that determine who wins the game. A basketball or football team wins by having more points than the other team when time runs out. A baseball team wins by having more runs when the opposing team runs out of opportunities to bat. On the flip side, an individual or team loses a game when a competitor achieves the necessary requirements to win.

An men’s basketball team is not just playing the sport of basketball. They are actually playing the more specific sport of NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball. Aside from scoring more points than the other team, this sport has an additional requirement: to do so with a properly assembled roster of players meeting eligibility requirements. The NCAA Division I Manual is no less a part of the rules that disinguish college basketball from other forms of the sport than the 35-second shot clock.

When one team scores more points than the other team with an ineligible player, it has not actually won, since it has not achieve all of the necessary requirements for victory. So when a victory is vacated, it’s not rewriting history. It’s acknowledging the fact that the team is missing a piece of the puzzle.

The basic point is if a team uses an ineligible player then they have not met all the requirements to competition therefore cannot be credited with a win. It should be understood that he credit for the win is the only thing that changes when a win is vacated. The win is removed from the record books but the game and the stats still stand. So when people talk about a game not happening because it was vacated that is not technically true. The game did happen. The stats remain unchanged(except for ineligible players) only the credit for the win is taken away. Infante points out the NCAA should not only vacate the win but the loss for the other team as well.

If I have one complaint about the current way victories are vacated, it is that losses should be vacated to. Back to theory, you lose a game when your opponent achieves victory. Since your opponent did not actually win the game, you did not actually lose it. You still didn’t win though, because you didn’t meet the requirements either. So when a game is vacated, both the victory and the loss should be erased from the records of the teams. Personal records should stay though, since all the eligible players met the requirements to score those points, make those assists, and grab those rebounds. Yes, stats from a game with no winner or loser. Theory is still messy that way.

Messy is certainly the correct word but when you start altering records retroactively, it is bound to get messy. Vacating the loss as well seems like common sense given the general perception is that happens anyway even though official records for the losing school remains the same. Infante argues that because neither team met the requirements for victory the contest should essentially be declared a draw of sorts with only the individuals stats allowed to stand. In other words the game was played and despite a boatload of numbers that said players did something, it resulted in nothing.

Rounding back to what Little said, UNC did not meet the requirements for competition in those games therefore those wins will be taken away. It doesn't matter to the NCAA that no one knew it at the time. They are interested in correcting the record as a mean of punishment. Whether that punishment is effective or not is a debate for another time. The silver lining here is the NCAA at least has the good sense to let individual stats stand or else someone like T.J. Yates would have been royally screwed.