And you expected, what, exactly? That a university would have suspended one of its greatest football players ever, one responsible for helping the school bring in millions of dollars?
That UNC Chapel Hill apparently shrugged while football great Julius Peppers barely received an education should surprise no one. He was boosting the schools bank account and its national profile like almost no one else on campus. UNC had every incentive to keep him eligible, despite his 11 Ds and Fs. And thats the problem.
The (Raleigh) News & Observers Dan Kane reported Tuesday that what appears to be Peppers 11-year-old transcript was on the universitys website and was discovered by some N.C. State fans. The transcript showed Peppers amassing an embarrassing academic record, buoyed only by Bs or better in seven classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, classes later shown to be a joke or even nonexistent. (Its disgraceful that the school allowed Peppers private information to become public and how that happened is a separate, important, question.)
The transcript suggests that academic fraud at UNC goes back much further than 2007, which was as far as an internal investigation bothered to go. Theres every reason to think it would continue today without revelations of it by the N&O over the past year.
The fraud did not involve a couple of athletes in a couple of classes. UNC has acknowledged that at least 54 classes offered little or no instruction and were packed with athletes. Those courses were overseen by African and Afro-American Studies chair Julius Nyangoro, who resigned this summer.
We dont blame Peppers for finding a way to stay eligible on the field. That led to him earning millions of dollars in the NFL. We blame the university, and even more the NCAA and a system that creates every incentive to cheat while proclaiming that student-athletes are truly students first, athletes second, even in big-time revenue sports.
Does anyone believe that fairy tale anymore?
It works out for a star like Peppers. But what about the vast majority of athletes who wont go pro?
Peppers agent, Carl Carey Jr., was an academic counselor in UNCs athletic department from 1998 to 2002. He told the N&O that Peppers situation was typical of a system that routinely failed athletes unprepared for rigorous academics. He said some athletes were as ill-equipped for class as regular students would be to play football.
Ah thats why we never pretend certain kids are football players. But the NCAA insists all athletes are students first.
Many are. But in Division I, big-revenue sports, they are usually athletes first essentially university employees, unpaid except with a free education that too often is not a real education at all.
That not-so-secret fact explains why the NCAA hasnt gotten involved too deeply with these academic questions at UNC. How could the NCAA crack down on a school for being part of its own game?
Its time the NCAA and member schools insist that their student-athletes truly be students. Or end that charade, pay them and craft course-work that helps them succeed after their eligibility is up, even if they dont go pro.