By Donald P. Eggleston
November 25, 2014
This article originally appeared in the Greensboro News & Record on Sunday. It has been edited here for length.
In response to the recent investigation of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the report by Kenneth Wainstein, I offer the university appropriate remedies to recapture its academic credibility.
My suggestions are drastic, but only drastic remedies offer a reasonable opportunity for recovery of the respect we have lost, both academically and athletically.
These suggestions include the wholesale replacement of coaches, administrators, tutors and faculty who were complicit in the fraud and a re-examination of the appropriate relationship between intercollegiate athletics and academics.
I hold to the principle that it does not matter if a coach or administrator or faculty member did not have actual knowledge of the “shadow” nature of the classes. All of the parties involved had a responsibility to know.
There is no doubt that signs were sufficiently apparent to put everyone on notice. If I am a coach who has recruited my players, I am aware of their often-limited academic backgrounds and natural proclivities. When I see more than 80 percent of my players are taking the same course, I have enough information to warrant an investigation.
Further, if I elect to delegate that responsibility to someone else, I must answer to the failure of my delegate to effectively investigate. Constructive knowledge equals actual knowledge, and the blame lies with all.
With all due respect to men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, it is not about whether the “kids tried to do the right thing.” The problem is not what the “kids” did, but rather what the “adults” allowed, helped and even directed the kids to do.
Deflecting the attention to the “kids” is just an escape mechanism to deflect responsibility off the adults. The really sad part is that this deflection has been present for a long time. We have aided and abetted academic fraud.
Athletics officials have the primary responsibility of overseeing the entire operation of each separate program, including academic performance. They failed in that role. I recommend the replacement of all non-clerical staff of the department who served in any capacity during the time athletes were enrolled in African and Afro-American Studies, or AFAM, classes.
This should coincide with a complete review of the role and mission statement of the athletics department.
•All non-clerical staff of any individual sports program in which any players were enrolled in any phony AFAM classes should be replaced. That includes all head and assistant coaches. They have succumbed to the disease of performance over academics that has led to the loss of all credibility, outside the community of the fanatic boosters of their respective or collective sports.
No amount of finger pointing or gnashing of teeth is persuasive. We are all sorry that we were caught, but some of us are sorry that it happened. The issue is the exercise and acceptance of responsibility. Each sports program should be rebuilt upon a more integrity-based model in conjunction with a restatement of academic standards and goals.
• Whether misled by signals, or lack thereof, from the administration and faculty, the academic support program for student-athletes still failed. I am satisfied that all staff knew the difference between what was right and what they were actually doing.
The entire staff of this program should be replaced. Further, the university should re-evaluate the viability and context of this program and, if it elects to continue it, redefine its purposes and policies.
If the program is to be continued, supervision and control over its operation, including the hiring of all counselors/tutors in the program, should be assigned to a division of the general administration and faculty.
• I find it particularly troublesome that the African and Afro-American Studies Department, now renamed African, African American and Diaspora Studies, was drawn into this scheme, given the importance of this department to the university’s diversity program.
However, it is inconceivable to me, in the current climate created by this scandal, that AFAM will not struggle to retain credibility in the academic community.
Additionally, given the overwhelming breadth of the abuse outlined in the Wainstein Report, the reasonable conclusion is that no one in the department could have failed to know of or suspect the abuses. My conclusion is that the entire program needs a rebuild. All current faculty and non-clerical staff who were there at the time should be replaced.
• The failure of the Faculty Athletic Council is not just an athletic failure. It is clear that academic politics played a part in the failure of that group to closely supervise both AFAM and athletic performance. Wainstein suggests that the members of this committee were persuaded against close investigation of AFAM because of academic autonomy. Irrespective of the motivations, there is no doubt that it refused to exercise the very purpose of the committee.
To regain credibility, the university must restate and reinforce the purpose of this committee, replace its members and recharge the replacements as to purpose.
I choose to believe that this fiasco can serve as an opportunity for UNC to lead by example. And one way to lead is to open a new dialogue as to the appropriate role of “big college sports” in the university community.
Donald P. Eggleston is a member of the UNC-Chapel Hill Class of 1971. He was a John Motley Morehead Scholar, a basketball letterman under Dean Smith (1967-71) and received his law degree from UNC in 1974.