From an editorial published Tuesday in the Greensboro News & Record:
Holden Thorp won’t reconsider his decision to resign as chancellor at the state’s flagship university, despite calls from trustees, faculty and students.
He doesn’t intend to be a lame duck, either.
Last week, the beleaguered UNC Chapel Hill chancellor pledged to clean up problems before a successor takes over next July. A big part of the job is to raise academic standards for athletes. Changes will be so dramatic, he told The News & Observer of Raleigh, that they will make “national news.”
If “academics are going to have to come first,” as he promised, that will be news in big-time college athletics circles.
In the past five years, 53 Carolina football players have been admitted despite failing to meet normal academic requirements. That number could explain why so many players were enrolled in apparently bogus classes provided for them in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. The point was to give them an easy grade so they could maintain their eligibility to play on autumn Saturdays.
Thorp didn’t say academic exceptions will end for athletes. Sometimes exceptions make sense, and not only for football or basketball players. A university might admit a talented musician whose SAT score or high school grade-point average wasn’t quite high enough.
The trouble is, Carolina wasn’t providing the right environment for some of its athletes. So, there will be fewer exceptions, Thorp said. More athletes will meet minimum admissions standards.
This may require an attitude adjustment among Carolina sports fans. Higher academic standards might produce a football team that’s more of a match for Duke’s than Florida State’s.
Thorp is waiting for a spring consultant’s study that will advise about striking the right balance between academics and athletics. He’s made it clear, however, that the tilt must favor academics.
If Thorp fights for that, and makes real progress, he’ll be able to hold his head higher when he gives up his lofty position and returns to the chemistry classroom as a decorated professor. And he’ll help make it possible for the next chancellor to keep athletics in its proper place, which is to field competitive teams with student-athletes who can score points in the classroom, too.