The Problem Isn't Only With Football
Firing a football coach might fix the problems in a football program. It may not correct the academic malfeasance that seems to go hand-in-hand with football at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
In recent weeks, Dan Kane of The News & Observer of Raleigh has reported how star football player Marvin Austin, in the summer of 2007 before his first full semester as a freshman at the school, took an upper, 400-level course and received a B-plus.
The course happened to be taught by the same professor, Julius Nyang'oro, who missed obvious plagiarism by another football player.
Days later, Kane wrote about how Nyang'oro hired a professional sports agent, who had previously been an academic adviser at UNC-Chapel Hill, to teach a summer class. The hiring took place in the middle of an NCAA investigation of the football program in which sports agents figured prominently.
It also occurred while the agent, Carl Carey Jr., was attempting to keep two UNC football players in his agency fold.
It's hard to know which is more outrageous here, the actions involved or the responses from the alleged adults in the room.
John Blanchard, a senior associate athletic director at UNC, told Kane that athletic department officials didn't know Carey had been hired until after the fact. They then steered athletes away from the course.
"Normally I wouldn't be concerned, but I was because of what we've been going through," Blanchard said.
So, normally no one would have a problem with professional sports agents getting this close to student athletes, giving out grades to potential clients?
The response from the Atlantic Coast Conference office was more troubling.
"I understand that concern, but there's nothing wrong with him being employed by an institution to teach a class," said Associate Commissioner Shane Lyons of the ACC.
Nothing wrong? So the ACC would be fine with every affiliated school hiring sports agents to teach classes, handing out grades to the student-athletes, giving them a little professorial advice?
It's no wonder that sports agents and wanna-be sports agents have played such a prevalent roll in recent scandals rocking intercollegiate athletics.
The question that UNC-Chapel Hill administrators need to answer is whether courses taught by Nyang'oro or others in the school's African Studies program have become one-stop shops to boost the grade-point averages of student-athletes.
If so, UNC-Chapel Hill isn't educating these student-athletes. It's exploiting them.
All academic disciplines at four-year universities aren't equal. Nuclear engineering is more demanding than political science. Political science is usually tougher than communications or parks and recreation management.
But all these areas of study can and should put students on a path to be successful upon graduation. Handing out pieces of paper based on plagiarized papers and easy-A, -senior-level courses doesn't.
The circumstances call for a straightforward, honest, public review of suspect -academic policies.
The NCAA can investigate football. The school needs to show some concern about its damaged academic reputation and how to repair it.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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