At Chapel Hill, a Company of Rogues
History professor Jay Smith was right about the scandal surrounding UNC-Chapel Hill's football program.
"We had all this news about a rogue tutor," Smith said. "There was a rogue assistant coach, a rogue agent, now, a rogue faculty member and a rogue administrative assistant. That's a lot of rogues."
The ever-mushrooming scandal, which now involves widespread academic fraud within the school's Department of African and Afro-American Studies, reminds me of some roguish history.
There was that episode back in the early 1970s, when some rogue burglars broke into a Washington hotel. They reported to a couple of rogue White House aides. A rogue U.S. attorney general tried to quash an investigation into the matter. A U.S. senator from North Carolina kept forcing embarrassing admissions from more rogue White House aides. Eventually, a rogue U.S. president resigned.
In the 1920s, rogue thieves kept stealing government documents involving rogue oil leases. A couple of rogue oil companies obtained the rogue government leases. A rogue U.S. Cabinet secretary eventually went to prison for accepting bribes from the rogue oil companies.
Oh, the rogues.
OK, so a rogue tutor and a rogue football coach aren't exactly on par with a rogue president or Cabinet secretary.
But when enough rogues run around the same place at the same time doing some of the same things, you no longer call them rogues. You call them conspirators.
The conspiracy here was keeping athletes eligible to play sports.
To believe that the latest evidence, from an internal review conducted by two of the school's associate deans, Jonathan Hartlyn and William L. Andrews, means anything else is to be naive.
Hartlyn and Andrews don't reach that conclusion. They found 54 suspect classes, taught between 2007 and 2011, where little or no instruction was given. They point out that any student could have enrolled in them.
Not just any student did. Of the students who enrolled in the courses, 39 percent were football or basketball players. Fifty-eight percent were involved in scholarship athletics of some type.
If those numbers aren't convincing evidence of student-athletes being steered to bogus courses, what of this incriminating fact: Former UNC football player Marvin Austin, the guy whose tweeting kicked off the sordid revelations, enrolled in one of these courses in the summer of 2007, before he had even begun his first full semester at the school.
Perhaps a sky-blue leprechaun suggested the course.
Obviously, athletic departments at other universities, intent on fielding successful football and basketball teams, steer athletes toward easy majors and easy courses.
That's not the same as pushing athletes into sham courses. It's not the same as unauthorized, unexplained grade changes. Those things constitute gross academic fraud.
The internal report lays the blame at the feet of the department's former dean, Julius Nyang'oro, along with an administrative assistant who left the school in 2009.
Oh, the rogues.
They appear to have had plenty of company.
Scott Mooneyham writes for Capitol Press Association in Raleigh. Contact him at email@example.com.
More like this story