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UNC vs The NCAA: Cowardice

Yet another misstep on the crooked path to nowhere, courtesy of the NCAA.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Earlier today, the NCAA released a statement. In a public remark, the Chair and Vice Chair of the NCAA D1 Board and Presidents of the University of Georgia and the University of Evansville respectively, Jere Morehead and Christopher Pietruszkiewicz, discussed how the D1 Board was “troubled by the public remarks made last week by some of the University of North Carolina leadership.” I’ll paste the entire final paragraph of the statement below, so that you, dearest reader, will have the benefit of context that these stuffed suits saw fit to remove from their own statement.

“The DI Board is troubled by the public remarks made last week by some of the University of North Carolina leadership. Those comments directly contradict what we and our fellow Division I members and coaches called for vociferously – including UNC’s own football coach. We are a membership organization, and rather than pursue a public relations campaign that can contribute to a charged environment for our peers who volunteer on committees, we encourage members to use established and agreed upon procedures to voice concerns and propose and adopt rule or policy changes if they are dissatisfied.”

Mack Brown has long been a proponent of the NCAA, carrying water for an organization that has long since forsaken its stated purpose for no other reason than shameless self-interest. Coach Brown is referenced above, although oddly not directly quoted, as “vociferously” calling for a one-time transfer rule, along with what sounds like every other Division 1 coach. When a one-time transfer rule was first proposed a few years ago, Brown went on the record as saying, “I mean, the more money you can give them, the more space you can give them, the more freedom you can give them good for them” while also conceding that “you don’t want the message to be that ‘if I’m having trouble starting, I quit and transfer right quick’.” None of that sounds to me like full-throated hollering for a one-time transfer rule to be strictly enforced, but what would I know? I’m not privy to the discussion in the NCAA’s lofty echo chambers.

You can see why it stung, though, for the NCAA to hear the incredibly harsh words “shame on you” from a formerly staunch ally in Coach Brown. It was likely jarring to read the strongly-worded statements from UNC leadership regarding the NCAA’s incorrect decision on Tez Walker’s availability, hence the spineless finale of the above paragraph encouraging NCAA members to “use established and agreed upon [sic] procedures to voice concerns and propose and adopt rule or policy changes if they are dissatisfied” instead of “pursu[ing] a public relations campaign that can contribute to a charged environment.”

This was a low point in the series of valleys that was this statement by the NCAA, but it wasn’t the worst. The worst was in the paragraph included below, suggesting that maybe a player experiencing mental health issues should take some time away from the sport they love to focus on their mental health:

“Academic data demonstrates that transferring typically slows student-athletes’ progress toward a degree, especially with those who transfer later. It stands to reason that multiple transfers would further slow time to a degree. Citing extenuating factors, such as mental health, does not necessarily support a waiver request but instead may, in some situations, suggest a student-athlete should be primarily focused on addressing those critical issues during the initial transition to a third school.”

I’ll remind you at this point that the NCAA purports to exist for the purpose of protecting student-athletes. Here’s a quote directly from the NCAA’s website:

Provide world-class services to student-athletes and members that leverage the NCAA’s collective scale:

Lead research and promote innovation that improves health, safety and performance.

Provide capabilities and programming that fill in the gaps for members.

Identify, co-create and distribute best practices to student-athletes and members.

What part of this decision (or this statement) is improving health, safety, and perormance, I wonder? Which section of the NCAA’s Mission Statement can they point to that says to force a student-athlete citing mental health concerns to sit out from what is likely his or her outlet, their passion? Including this shocking tidbit in a statement about how their feelings were hurt by strong words from the University of North Carolina leadership is cowardice of this highest order, and is almost as rich as telling a clinically depressed person to “just cheer up.”

The NCAA is meant to serve student-athletes; they say it themselves. The NCAA has repeatedly bungled Tez Walker’s case, and now the player is left to pick up the pieces while the faceless suits that sit on some committee somewhere release public statements about how distressing they find other public statements and claim to be “aware of violent — and possibly criminal — threats” against other members of the same committee. I’m not saying that people didn’t mouth off on social media follwing the inconceivably bad decision regarding Walker’s eligibility, but that’s to be expected when a governing body doubles down on being obviously wrong. Any credible threats directly to the person or property of a committee member should be thoroughly investigated by the authorities, not used as a smokescreen to try to position a bloated, antiquated, and laughably toothless governing body as the victim in a case that has such an obvious adverse effect on a player whom that selfsame governing body only pretends to care about.

It’s ridiculous, and the rest of the statement is not much better; a whole lot of words overwhelmingly lacking substance. Feel free to read for yourself at the link above, and see if your experience matches mine.

I would like to finish by saying I’m sorry, Tez, that the NCAA cares more about being admonished by Coach Brown for bypassing an obvious answer to painstakingly arrive at the wrong one than they do about your mental health and your desire to actually play football. I’m sorry that these rule changes went into effect via some kind of quantum format, by which they were enacted prior to being announced and left you non-compliant even before the school had been alerted of the rule change. I’m sorry to not get to see you play, and I’m sorry that your playing career hasn’t gone the way you likely imagined.

What a bad day to be the NCAA. What a great day to be a Tar Heel.