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ESPN Would Really Like There to Be a Scandal in UNC Basketball, Please

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Jeff Curry-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

If it was happening to anyone else it would almost be amusing. I've been watching the story about UNC's African and Afro-American Studies Department bubble for awhile, mostly fueled by the occasional News & Observer story that mostly reiterates whatever was in their previous article. A few weeks ago, the Big Lead got involved in a valiant attempt to tie Julius Nyang'oro, chair of the department, to the basketball program. They didn't get halfway there, but published the story anyway in an effort to insinuate what they couldn't prove. And today ESPN lays down a new marker in brazenness, by writing both a story and accompanying editorial about how... North Carolina is not being investigated by the NCAA.

How do you write 2,000+ words about a non-existant investigation? Mostly be repeating what's come before. There's very little that's new here, only some quotes from Bubba Cunningham and an e-mail from UNC history professor Jay Smith. Cunningham says basically what he's said all along — the NCAA was aware of the department's troubles before it released it's report in March, non-athletes and athletes were equally deprived their educations in the slack classes, and it's not an NCAA matter. Pickeral e-mails the NCAA, who obviously does not comment on individual investigations, but points out that in situations like the one Cunningham describes, the NCAA doesn't consider it to fall under their jurisdiction. And she mentions worse situations at Michigan and Auburn where the NCAA also didn't act. And she gets the former president of the National Association for Academic Advisors for Athletics to say:

"At the same time, I will say that there are significant numbers of faculty at every institution who are friendly to athletes. I have 31 years of experience when I say that. Every institution has 'Jock Docs.' And every institution has majors that are less rigorous than others and, unfortunately, athletes tend to follow the path of least resistance. And so do academic counselors at times."

Then there's the effort to tie this all to the basketball program. Pickeral relies first on that same Indianapolis Star article where Sean May says to graduate faster after becoming an NBA player, he switched from a double major to just AFAM; the fact that this is remotely controversial says something about how much journalism majors paid attention to their fellow students in college. Then there's stuff like "Although the majority of the athletes in the suspect sessions were football players, 3 percent were men's basketball players." Since I'm pretty sure less than 100 athletes were involved, that an imposing way of saying "one or two basketball players." Probably Mike Copeland, Reyshawn Terry, or Quentin Thomas, the last three athletes with that particular major. There's still no story, but they'll be damned if they don't try to make one appear.

(Dana O'Niel's column is one long cri de coeur asking why the NCAA isn't knocking heads that ignores the ridiculously simple explanation — universities will never stand for an athletic organization accrediting their academic programs.)

So how is this being taken by the world at large? About how you would expect. Let's take Kentucky fans, for example. Kentucky fans are voices of reason. They insist that no scurrilous accusations be made about the academics standing of a program, simply because the coach had a Final Four appearance vacated because a player cheated on the SAT. Or another Final Four appearance vacated because a player took cash from an agent. The important thing is the NCAA did not implicate the coach in either instance — their word is bond, and he should be above reproach until shown otherwise.

Oh wait, it's a another program we're talking about? Then they're guilty as hell. The NCAA is just biding their time.

Yes, the post is basically one long troll, especially since the content management system here at SB Nation lets you send alerts to teams you write posts about, and I get a lot of them from Kentucky. But this is what to expect from opposing fan bases in the coming months. Conviction that Carolina is cheating, and grumbling that they're getting away with something that can't really be defined. And should the NCAA come around to their schools, well, then we'll be right back to scurrilous allegations and a lack of burden of proof. College fans are nothing if not fickle, after all.