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Cameron Johnson and North Carolina are a perfect match

The addition of Cam Johnson gives Carolina fans another reason to be excited about the upcoming year.

NCAA Basketball: Pittsburgh at Syracuse Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Exciting times for North Carolina basketball nation. For me, the April Monday for college basketball’s national championship is like day one of my life’s new fiscal year. Sure, normal people have January 1st to demarcate a new year in their lives, but if you ask Tar Heel basketball nation, it’s Championship Monday that signals our new year. A massive amount of intrinsic joy gets mapped out in a single night; and I’m glad to say that business has been and continues to be great in the 2017-2018 fiscal Tar Heel year.

It’s easy to get greedy as a UNC basketball fan. While it was nice soaking up the redemption of the 2017 championship, it didn’t take long for Tar Heel fans to turn their attention to blue chip prospect Kevin Knox; because what’s nicer than going to two championship games in a row? Going to three in a row. But for the correct championship recipe, we all believed Knox was an essential ingredient.

As we know, Knox chose Kentucky and John Calipari’s goal of turning next year’s UK squad into Oprah’s favorite 2010 Atlanta Hawks team was complete. You get a 6’8-6’9 forward! You get a 6’8-6’9 forward! You get a 6’8-6’9 forward! Nevertheless, the Carolina faithful were still excited about next year’s prospects. We were returning a talented team filled with both veteran and fresh talent, albeit with some front court question marks.

Then, Carolina’s coaching staff decided to get creative. Enter Cameron Johnson, graduate transfer from Pittsburgh, a seasoned ACC performer with a silky stroke from beyond the arc. At 6’8-6’9, Johnson boasts a pure three-point shot, can handle the ball, also moves well without the basketball, and has the defensive versatility to guard positions 1-4 (enter ‘positionless’ basketball pitch here). After considering Kentucky, UCLA, and Oregon, Cam decided to take his talents and remaining two years of eligibility to North Carolina. For Cam, the fit was perfect; athletically, culturally, and academically.

As smoothly as Cam Johnson will transition into being a Tar Heel, the same cannot be said for his departure from Pittsburgh; specifically, the Pitt athletic department’s handling of Johnson’s case. In very technical terms, Cam Johnson’s situation involved a number of specific NCAA by-laws, particularly by-law 14.6 and 14.6.1. Keeping it simple, 14.6 details Graduate Student/Post baccalaureate participation and 14.6.1 details One-time Transfer Exception. Feel free to delve into the legalese (https://web3.ncaa.org/lsdbi/search/bylawView?id=725#result).

Things officially got murky when Pitt’s athletic department declared: “…If Cameron were to transfer within the ACC, he would be eligible to receive financial aid immediately but would have to sit out a year of competition…” According to sources familiar with the situation, Pittsburgh incorrectly administered part of by-law 14.6.1 to 14.6. The NCAA and ACC perspective is that graduate transfer stipulations are encompassed entirely in 14.6, creating a hard-line “yes-no” position where Cam Johnson should’ve been either 100% eligible to immediately chose any school he pleased or completely blocked from certain schools.

Essentially, it should have been handled like any other ‘traditional’ transfer scenario where the incumbent school either grants full transfer rights or denies all transfer rights to respective schools. The Pittsburgh Athletic Department made a mistake when it added on the “…eligible to receive financial aid immediately but would have to sit out a year…” to Cam’s conditional release.

Because Pitt misapplied the by-laws, they would in essence have screwed over Johnson since he used his final official visit on Chapel Hill, has been talking with Carolina and its staff, and has sacrificed creating relationships with other programs and coaching staffs. Pittsburgh would virtually have to say to Johnson, “since we messed up, we have to rescind our agreement of you being on scholarship at the school of your choice next season, even if you sit out.” The optics would be terrible for Pitt, to say the least. North Carolina is confident it would win an appeal to the NCAA, and is ready to take it to that length should it be necessary.

While the dust settles, a few things are certain: Cam Johnson looks great in Carolina Blue, it’s a great day to be a Tar Heel, and the ACC/entire country are officially on notice for the 2017-2018 basketball season.