Four years. That’s my recommendation. Men’s basketball and football at the University of North Carolina should be shut down for four years. That means that an entire class of students – I’m talking about real students, not the fake ones who have played football and basketball for the “Tar Heels” – should be prevented from watching the two marquis sports at that institution throughout their tenure.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about by now, shame on you. The academic cheating scandal at the University of North Carolina has received enough publicity that it should be known by every American. Legions of university insiders have now confirmed that athletes were encouraged to take courses in the African and Afro-American Studies Department (AFAM) in which they would have to do essentially no work and for which they would receive top grades. This went on for years. And the publicity has now been going on for months. What hasn’t been happening is any sign, even a sniff, of consequences for that university.
Let’s be candid here. UNC has a reputation of being one of the better state schools on the east coast if not the nation. It has always prided itself in having the same relationship to Duke (the South’s most prestigious private university) that Cal Berkeley has to Stanford. Supposedly, UNC offers state of the art academics at public university prices. What’s not to love, right?
But look a bit under the façade of academic excellence, and you’ll see something truly disgusting. Allegation after allegation has been made by university insiders that the athletic department has allowed “students” to evade the responsibility of classroom learning – not simply to pass classes but supposedly to excel at them. One big time basketball star has spoken about making the Dean’s List at the same time that he did essentially no work – he just slept late and then practiced his hoops. And worse yet, the university has taken a discipline like AFAM, which supposedly was created for the holiest of reasons – to finally treat Africans and African Americans with dignity and with justice by recognizing that their story is every bit as important as the story of white people or Asian people – and instead used it as a vehicle to further another recognizable principle: massive fraud.
Why is the NCAA doing nothing about this? Why, when ESPN covers the story, does it merely report on the existence of this scandal without asking the obvious question: what should the consequences be? Why the conspiracy of silence when it comes to the ramifications of the tar heels behaving like tar heels?
Is it because, as some conservatives have suggested, political correctness prevents anyone from confronting AFAM departments because that would appear to be racist? Is it because UNC’s basketball program is so historically revered and so centrally placed that it is essentially “too big to suspend”? Or is it because the idea of college athletic integrity has become such an oxymoron that nobody cares anymore when institutions are caught engaging in fraud on the largest scale possible?
I don’t know the answer. But this much I do know – people of conscience should boycott watching UNC games. Just avoid them. Even if your school is playing the boys in blue, just say no. In an era when the foxes seem to be running all the hen houses, it is incumbent on the rest of us to take some stands. We don’t have the power to cause college administrators to put athletics in its proper place and maintain academic standards for their athletes. What we can do, however, is control our own viewing habits.
UNC does not deserve your time when their athletes take the field or the court. UNC must never again stand for the University of No Consequences. The change in that name starts with me and you.