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Dear NCAA: A note of thanks to a really swell organization

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Thanks for everything!

Track and Field: NCAA Indoor Championships Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Dear NCAA:

With all of the criticism and uncertainty swirling around your enforcement process and seemingly never-ending investigation of the University of North Carolina, it is high time that someone finally thank you for all you have done. Having spent the last seven years with you as a part of my daily life, I feel like I have gotten to know the real you. Please accept this apology for all of the negativity that you have had to endure.

You first appeared on the scene following a July 2010 tweet by Marvin Austin. At the time, everyone thought, “oh great, this will be a waste of time.” After all, you have not had the most sterling reputation for full, fair, and timely investigations. Less than two years later, however, you proved them all wrong and issued formal sanctions against the UNC football team.

I assume we were the winner of some kind of coin flip since you inexplicably decided not to delve into Lance Thomas’ nearly $100,000 loan. Perhaps the choice was a patriotic notion in protecting American institutions like USA Basketball. Personally, I took it as a complement. Character is built on challenging times and football success was starting to come too easy for the Heels.

Fortunately, our time together did not end. While local newspapers in search of clicks have argued that those initial transgressions were part of a bigger academic conspiracy (go get your own link), we know that one investigation was simply the but-for cause of the next. How embarrassing that I started to drift into legalese there. Your filings and arguments make it very clear that you don’t work with lawyers.

“But-for causation” simply means that if it weren’t for one thing, the other thing would not have happened. In other words, if you would not have investigated a single tutor and a sports agent then you, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, would not have been able to preserve academic integrity across the nation. I assume the “A” for “academic” is silent, and invisible, in “NCAA.”

I also applaud your ability to stretch an investigation out far beyond what most people would consider “reasonable.” After all, what would a former Governor working with an auditing firm or a former member of the Justice Department know about conducting an investigation? The ease with which you have deviated from your own procedural rules demonstrates precisely why academic investigations should not be left to academic accreditation agencies but instead to a self-interested athletic organization.

Some have argued that your entire goal was to keep this ordeal going long enough that it would cause collateral damage to UNC, but you and I know the opposite is true. Along with the smear-peddling competitive recruiters, you have skillfully guided Carolina basketball toward multi-year players that build more than teams; they build dynasties.

Few could contest that the last two years of phenomenal basketball success are due to your helping this recruiting strategy. The joy on Mark Emmert’s face in presenting the National Championship trophy in April was a beautiful moment.

At the same time, you have helped the public discover a number of academic irregularities. I don’t think anyone would have known of a learning specialist’s biased and unfounded research if she would not have sought the limelight in support of your cause. We wouldn’t have known that loyalty for nonsensical former players can be bought for $10 million (or $300 million from you).

We would have all blindly continued believing that local writers use reputable sources to present neutral opinions if it weren’t for fake “insiders” being relied on to continue a narrative. That episode alone has taught us all why research is important and what “fake” really means.

Perhaps most importantly, you have managed to keep UNC in the spotlight for the entire decade. They say that no publicity is bad publicity and that is certainly true. Also true is that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. With so many enemies, you have really helped emboldened UNC fans pick up a lot of friends. I cannot imagine how heroic you will have made the school look when this whole thing is over sometime in 2031.

So again, thank you for the attention. Thank you for taking five years to do what could have been completed in two. Thank you for taking one position, taking a different position in court, and then once you knew you were defeated, taking a whole new position just before the hearing. That kind of now you see me now you don’t magic is usually reserved for four-year-olds that are caught eating candy before dinner. Thank you for wrapping up the hearing before SEC football begins just in case any interested parties are involved.

Finally, in what was the greatest moment of entertainment in this whole process, I really appreciate your passive aggressive shot across Bubba Cunningham’s bow. Many believed that the hearing would be drama enough, but not you! No, you knew that clowning around is what really makes a circus. Why else would you publicly criticize without punishing the one school official with the temerity to publically criticize you? I suppose that’s why the priorities on your home page state that “All college athletes deserve a fair shot.” Colleges and their employees do not. Well played indeed.

Keep up the good work.