The latest from Dan Kane, Insinuation Director, Woodward and Bernstein Division, News & Observer.
In the wake of the recent findings that there was academic fraud connected to multiple classes in UNC's African and Afro-American department we have yet another breathless headline from the News & Observer in the attempt to make the scandal about the athletic department.
UNC players made up 39 percent of suspect classes
Now if my math is right that means 61% of regular students made up the rest of the enrollments but we don't care about them since they aren't playing football or basketball. Regular students are allowed to slack off and screw around with easy classes. Athletes? That is bad, bad, bad!
Football and basketball players accounted for nearly four of every 10 students enrolled in 54 classes at the heart of an academic fraud investigation at UNC-Chapel Hill, according to figures released Monday.
The classes were all within UNC’s Department of African and Afro-American studies. An internal probe released Friday produced evidence of unauthorized grade changes and little or no instruction by professors. Forty-five of the classes listed the department’s chairman, Julius Nyang’oro, as the professor. Investigators could not determine instructors for the remaining nine.
University officials say they found no evidence that the suspect classes were part of a plan between Nyang’oro and the athletic department to create classes that student-athletes could pass so they could maintain their eligibility. They said student-athletes were treated no differently in the classes than students who were not athletes.
But the high percentages of student-athletes in the classes suggest to some that academic advisers, tutors and others in the athletic department may have guided them to the classes.
Kane is not saying he's just saying. There is no proof that athletic department tutors or academic advisers were steering players to these classes. No proof that there was a "wink-wink" between professors in the AFAM department and the athlete academic support. Do players get steered or choose to take easy classes? Certainly and regular students also seek out easy classes but for some reason we are only concerned when athletes do it even though that is how the sausage is made. These suspect classes were available to all students and while Kane is promoting this "four in ten" number there were "six in ten" who were not athletes making this a academic issue and not necessarily an athletic one. Of course the questions begs to be asked why Kane only brings up football and basketball players. What about the other sports on campus? Were there women's basketball players in these classes? Track and field athletes? Gymnastics? Fencing? If the percentage of students in these classes were 80% in favor of athletes at UNC that certainly would be a story right? In fact it seems like Kane is so hell bent on trying to tag football and basketball with something he misses what might be a real story. Unless of course there wasn't in which case Kane decided to make it about football and basketball despite the latter only being 3% of the total.
It is also important to remember two key aspects here. One, these were not classes designed for and populated 100% by athletes just to keep them eligible. Kane even admits that much but for some reasons keeps up the insinuations. A few years ago Jim Harrick was the head coach at Georgia, his son, Jim Harrick, Jr. "taught" a basketball class where basketball players were given preferential treatment and some really easy tests. That situation led to NCAA violations and cost Harrick his job at Georgia. At UNC, while the academic fraud uncovered in the AFAM department is egregious, it did not include preferential treatment of players nor is there evidence an intentional effort was made to grease the academic skids for athletes.
Secondly, there is no evidence players are being granted whole degrees or kept wholly eligible by a series of suspect classes. According to the report these were classes that occurred in summer school and if you evenly distribute it you are talking about two classes per basketball players(assuming 23 enrollments equals 23 players which it may not) or four classes per football player(given the same assumption as before.) So while we should be alarmed that this sort of thing went on and UNC is right to move swiftly to clean up this mess, there is no evidence players on either the football or basketball team were being given free passes for their entire work load or these classes were being handled this way simply to assist athletes. That doesn't justify it but it also doesn't rise to the level of scandal Kane or rivals fans are hoping it goes.
This is an academic issue and that in itself would make it newsworthy but you will note that today's latest foray in rampant implication is found in the sports section of the paper. Why? Because the athletic department angle, especially in the wake of UNC's recent football trouble makes the story sexy. There are people who(rightfully so) care about academic scandals of this sort but imply it somehow involves malfeasance in the athletic department people who otherwise wouldn't give a crap about classes athletes take suddenly care very deeply. Not because they really care but because it is more arrows in the rivalry quiver.
In other words, the N&O needs to sell papers and nothing does that better a game of imaginary connect the dots with a couple of high profile sports in the mix.