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Academic fraud at North Carolina

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.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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Madison Bumgarner quiets Royals

The commentary above brings up a good point – the Giants probably needed this game more with Madison Bumgarner on the mound. They needed their ace to step up and he did. He also stopped the ridiculous post-season winning streak by the Royals.

Now we’ll see how the Royals react. They’ve been resilient during games, and now they have to bounce back from a home loss and avoid going down to games heading to San Francisco.

The ratings are down for this World Series, and a boring game one won’t help. That’s a shames as the Royals are such a good story. If they rebound we might see more fans tune in.

Meanwhile, the Giants have the chance to become one of those boring dynasties like the San Antonio Spurs if they can win this Series.

Florida State hangs on against Notre Dame

The game lived up to the hype. Notre Dame gave Florida State everything they could handle last night in Tallahassee, with the winning touchdown being taken off the board on what turned out to be the correct call. Both Jameis Winston and Everett Golson were spectacular, and it seemed like whoever had the ball last would win. As it turned out, Notre Dame thought they had it but the refs called them out for a pick on the last touchdown to Corey Robinson.

Both teams were impressive, and frankly both are in good shape for the upcoming playoff. Florida State has a pretty easy road so all they need to do is take care of business in the ACC. Notre Dame will have to impress over other one-loss teams if they win out, but they have a tougher road which helps if they win them, but . . . . they have to win them! Road games against USC and Arizona State will be tough ones.

Here are some other observations from yesterday’s games:

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Bizarre Percy Harvin trade

The NFL world was pretty shocked yesterday with the news that Seattle traded Percy Harvin to the Jets. It started to make more sense, at least from Seattle’s point of view, when reports started to surface that Harvin was a cancer in the clubhouse. In fact, the move seems brilliant all of a sudden from their point of view. Pete Carroll has established himself as one of the best football coaches out there, and he doesn’t tolerate players that don’t buy into his culture. When you have references to “anger management” issues connected to Harvin, it’s no surprise that Seattle decided to move him. The Seahawks have some issues this year as the rest of the NFL seems to be figuring out that you need to punch them in the mouth if you want to beat them. Carroll obviously concluded he didn’t want to put up with Harvin’s bullshit.

Still, even though Harvin’s production wasn’t that impressive, just having him on the field posed a real problem for defenses, and even as a decoy he was extremely valuable to an offense that relies heavily on scheme and misdirection. Let’s see how this affects Russell Wilson’s production going forward.

Turning to the 1-6 Jets, this deal seems to make a lot less sense. Does adding a talented player who has trouble getting along with others make any sense for a bad team? Sure, Idzik has taken heat for not giving Rex Ryan enough weapons, but this seems like a desperation move.

Perhaps Harvin will react better to the Rex Ryan atmosphere over the intense Pete Carroll approach. Also, if you look at the schedule for the rest of the year, the Jets should be in every game. Maybe this sparks a turnaround? It just seems like a move that bad franchises make. Getting a couple more wins in a season where many expect Rex Ryan to be fired seems pointless, and Harvin has a ridiculous salary for a player who has been dumped by two franchises for being a malcontent. The circus in the New York media won’t help much either.

At the very least we have a story worth following for the rest of the year.

Is Russell Wilson an elite quarterback?

This question is being debated quite a bit since Russell Wilson dazzled recently in prime time against the Redskins. Frankly, Wilson is capable of making some incredible plays, and he’s definitely one of the best improvisers in football.

I was never high on Wilson and he’s made me and other critics eat my words. That said, he’s in the perfect situation with a great defense and a dominant running game. Like Big Ben before him, his situation has allowed him to grow into his role.

But now the hype is in full force as to where he ranks among the best quarterbacks, and this week against the Cowboys we saw many of Wilson’s limitations. If you keep him in the pocket and force him to beat you with just his arm, then Wilson can struggle particularly when his team is playing from behind.

Also, even if you go back to a game where he seemingly played well, his reliance on running from the pocket makes him pass up some big passing plays as pointed out by Pete Prisco.

Much of his success can be traced back to the scheme, giving him easy running lanes and open receivers. Then he excels by making plays when he leaves the pocket, and his vision downfield is very impressive when he’s moving.

Yet in the pocket he’s very inconsistent, so when comparing him to someone like Andrew Luck it’s not even close at this point in my opinion. Luck can do so much more and he can do everything Wilson does well.

So while Wilson is definitely a very good quarterback, let’s not put him in the elite category just yet.