Last night Yahoo! dropped a story alleging a walk-on football player at UNC had been hazed and suffered a concussion. At this point little is known about specific details but there is plenty of conjecture that could indicate Pat Forde(who has no love for UNC) may have sensationalized the story a bit.
1. Did hazing actually occur?
It should be noted Yahoo! is the only place the word "hazing" has been used. In my initial title I used the word hazing but later edited it to place the word in quotes. Hazing carries a different weight than if it were simply a fight and no details have been provided to confirm it actually was hazing.. The words "group assault" were also used by Forde which is still a bit disturbing but again hazing is the money word when it comes to fanning the flames of public outrage.
As of this morning WCHL is reporting the incident was a "fight over a girl." Inside Carolina, which has solid sources in the athletic department, indicated that part about the fight being "over a girl" is not true. In addition to the possibility this may have been just a random training camp fight is the fact Jackson Boyer is a redshirt freshman meaning this is his second year with the team. Players in their second year don't usually end up being hazing targets.
Again, nothing has been confirmed but based on the conjecture bouncing around out there this simply being a fight sounds closer to the truth than what Yahoo! has reported.
2. So what's Yahoo! up to?
That's a good question and brings us to an interesting place where the following is true.
Kinda sucks that #UNC is forced to collect facts and do any sort of internal investigation, but media outlets can run with anything whenever— JP (@Joey_Powell) August 27, 2014
If you have followed the coverage of UNC's various issues over the past few years you recognize this pattern. The media whether it be Dan Kane, Sara Ganim, Paul Barrett or Pat Forde will write articles based on shoddy research, half-baked anecdotes and the ravings of a woman who actually published this two weeks ago. The level of fact checking the media chooses to engage in before tossing mud as UNC is a few notches below the depth of investigation subsequently demanded of the school to disprove said accusations.
In other words the media, while uncovering some truth about misdeeds in Chapel Hill, has also been known to declare UNC guilty without much hard evidence. Once a public furor has been created the fourth estate then insists the administration do the media's job for them with yet another probe.
The other element is UNC is so battered by the past four years that there is little choice but to jump when the media drops another negative story. Yahoo! says there was a hazing incident so UNC has little recourse but to issue a statement and say they are investigating. It doesn't matter than if the Yahoo! story is true or not, UNC doesn't enjoy the benefit of the doubt. Yes, the school(especially the previous administration) shoulders blame for that being the case. However, if we've reached a point where all it takes is Pat Forde saying "hazing" to put UNC into investigation mode, at what point does it end?
3. Speaking of Yahoo! how did they get wind of something that didn't even result in a police report or players missing practice?
One possible theory that's been bantered about is some dissatisfied party such as player's parent or perhaps a disgruntled person at UNC leaked the incident to the media. Maybe there wasn't any discipline for the incident and someone was unhappy about that. Perhaps the incident traveled the grapevine and Yahoo! ran with a morphed version of the story. Whatever the case, there wasn't a police report or any other outward indication of a problem which means there is a fairly limited number of people who probably knew about the incident. Given the timing of the release, which puts UNC in a position to possibly discipline players with missed games to satisfy the bloodlust, a disgruntled individual seems to be the most likely suspect.
4. Oh, Yahoo! says Jackson Boyer had a concussion, when did he return to practice?
This part might be higher on the concern list assuming this wasn't a hazing incident. Concussions are easily the biggest issue in football at any level right now. If Boyer did indeed suffer one during the incident then what precautions were taken? Did the coaching staff know? Did team medical personnel know about it? Boyer has been practicing since the incident but if he suffered some sort of head injury, ensuring proper concussion protocol was followed is a matter of the highest importance.
5. So what happens next?
UNC will look into the incident, find out what happened and either punish those involved or not. If no hazing occurred and no charges have been filed with the police then this is an internal team matter. It is the sort of thing where had Pat Forde and Yahoo! not published an article alleging hazing occurred would have resulted in the involved players running extra in practice or someone sitting out a game for a "violation of team rules."
If this was not a hazing incident then it should have never seen the light of day. Football teams have incidents during camp. You are talking about 100-plus athletes who engage in a sport where aggressive behavior and hitting other human beings are at the core of the game. It's also 100-plus people interacting with each other. Sometimes they don't get along and fisticuffs, pushing, trash-talking and yes fighting occurs. And if hazing did occur then UNC should act quickly and discipline appropriately. Assuming it's just an isolated incident, it will be dealt with and steps taken to ensure it doesn't happen again.
The only reason this has piqued anyone's attention is the use of the word "hazing" in a clear effort to sensationalize his report. Absent that, no one would have cared and there is a good chance two days from now that will still be the case. So maybe Pat Forde should go back to writing glowing pieces about Notre Dame because that worked out so well the last time he did that.