UNC Spin Effort Now Backfiring
The latest embarrassing revelations about the athletics/academic scandal at UNC-Chapel Hill are not really new. That they have made more headlines now is primarily a terrible reflection on how Chancellor Holden Thorp and his administration have handled the situation, abetted by faulty legal advice.
They should have been upfront with the people of North Carolina, let the sun shine in, and put all this behind them long ago. Instead, by opting to try to sweep everything under the rug, they've succeeded only in prolonging the agony for our state's flagship university and making it the butt of jokes.
The most recent bombshells come in the form of two sets of documents. And the worst part is that the allegations aren't new at all - at least not to the Thorp administration, which knew about them two or three years ago. But instead of going public with them at the time, they tried to circle the wagons and manage the news, with the disastrous delayed effects now being felt.
The first set of papers belatedly going public concern an investigation by the N.C. secretary of state's office into contacts by sports agents with UNC athletes. These documents tell a shabby story - though not a new one - involving former UNC football star Marvin Austin. He was one of the students who were allowed to chalk up phony academic credits by taking non-courses within the Department of African and Afro American Studies.
Back then, Austin told investigators that sports agent Terry Shawn had paid him thousands of dollars in cash while he was a student. Among the other UNC players alleged to have received cash - and stays in nice Miami hotel rooms - were Jordan Nix and Robert Quinn. And a friend of Shawn's told agents that more money had been sent to "many other student-athletes at schools other then UNC-CH." Such appalling recruiting activities are blatant violations of NCAA rules.
Spin Doctors Clean Up
Perhaps even more disturbing are more recent revelations about the astounding amount of money spent by the administration in trying to put the best possible spin on the mess while "investigating" it.
Former Gov. Jim Martin played a starring role in the "Martin Report," which supposedly took a close, objective look at all those illegitimate courses being taught at Chapel Hill. It now turns out that university officials paid an incredible $490,000 to the Baker Tilly consulting company to oversee the preparation of the report.
Bear in mind that not a penny of that amount appears to have gone to Martin himself, who worked pro bono. Rather, this money went to finance an effort to put the least awkward face on the findings.
Meanwhile, Thorp cut a separate deal with another public relations consultant, at $15,000 a month, to help him handle the ticklish situation. This was done even though the university has a well-paid staff of public relations people of its own.
That this half-million dollars came from the technically private UNC-CH Foundation doesn't make a whole lot of difference. This is money that obviously could have gone to a great many better causes to advance the quality of education in North Carolina, as opposed to covering various tails.
How many ways can you bungle something?
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