The debacle in North Carolina poses a real problem for the NCAA. The North Carolina basketball program is one of the premier brands in college basketball, but the NCAA makes billions with the NCAA Tournament.
The NCAA slammed Ohio State and USC over tattoos and improper benefits, but here we have a situation where football players, basketball players and other athletes were funneled though “no show” classes that were a complete farce.
The people involved seem to have connections to basketball coach Roy Williams:
Investigators said they talked once to former UNC academic adviser Mary Willingham, who questioned the literacy level of Tar Heels athletes and said UNC had committed academic misconduct before leaving the job in 2010. A report that men’s basketball coach Roy Williams told Willingham her only job was to keep his players eligible was not verified; Williams said he didn’t believe he had met Willingham, and Willingham, who filed a civil suit against the university in June, did not talk to investigators for a second time to answer that question.
The report listed Wayne Walden — the associate director of ASPSA and academic counselor for a number of sports, including men’s basketball from 2003 to 2009, and who has worked closely with Williams at both Kansas and North Carolina — as one of the counselors who “steered players into these paper classes.” It said Walden and his predecessor, Burgess McSwain, “routinely called Crowder to arrange classes for their players.” The report also said Walden later played a role in the basketball players’ move away from the paper-class system.
The report said Walden acknowledged knowing about irregular aspects of the paper classes, including that Crowder was doing at least some of the grading. It added that, when asked whether he shared this information with former UNC assistant and then director of basketball operations Joe Holladay or Williams, Walden could not recall doing so.
Both coaches told investigators that they never learned from Walden or anyone else that there was a question about faculty involvement in the classes or that Crowder was doing the grading.
“You had them [Williams and Holladay] trying to pull back on independent studies, because they wanted lecture classes. You had them pull back on Afam because he [Williams] didn’t like the clustering,” Wainstein said. “Those are actions that are inconsistent with being complicit or really trying to promote that scheme.”
The last paragraph seems ridiculous. So Walden has a close relationship with Williams and he’s steering players into these classes, but Williams is totally in the dark. If we’re to believe that, the whole arrangement seems intentional. The head coach can’t be sucked into the scheme, so you have to have a designated person who can take the fall. Doesn’t that sound more plausible?
Unfortunately things like this happen everywhere given the farce of college athletics, especially in basketball where everyone knows the best players are making a one-year cameo appearance at the school. The classes are just window dressing.
But the level of fraud at North Carolina, the systematic nature of it, and the denial by Williams he knew anything about it all adds up to a mess that seems impossible to explain away.
But the highlights from the report suggest that the investigators were more than willing to accept the “I didn’t know” or “I don’t remember” defenses when it comes to implicating Williams.
How will the incompetent NCAA react? Who knows? They won’t do anything like the death penalty, but let’s see if they’re willing to punish one of the cash cows helping to drive their basketball revenues.