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In the wake of the academic-fraud scandal at North Carolina, the question must be asked yet again: Is excellence in big-time intercollegiate athletics fundamentally compatible with academic excellence at a national research university?

It wasn’t independent investigator Kenneth Wainstein’s presentation of the breadth and depth of North Carolina’s phony classes that really hit home Wednesday, impressive and staggering as it was. It was chancellor Carol Folt’s apology afterward, a long awaited, comprehensive institutional mea culpa that acknowledged the “shadow curriculum” that existed for almost two decades on campus and the collective failure to stop it.

With his 7-year-old brother hospitalized with a malignant tumor, Duke running back Shaquille Powell’s second-half running helped the Blue Devils to a critical 20-13 win over Virginia.

At this point, both North Carolina and NC State have to ask where the bar is set to still consider their seasons successful – and then figure out how to clear it.

Tuesday was the Carolina Hurricanes’ final home game of October as they hit the road for their annual state-fair road trip, this time playing five games in 13 days while swinging across Western Canada.

N.C. State coach Dave Doeren, now 0-11 in ACC games, acknowledged fan frustration after Saturday’s 30-14 loss to Boston College. “I want to get the monkey off my back,” Doeren said. “It takes time.”

Down 3-0 after two periods, the season couldn’t have gotten off to much worse of a start for the Carolina Hurricanes in a 5-3 loss to the New York Islanders.

Coming off a critical loss at Miami two weeks ago, Duke gets a second chance to take control of its destiny in the Coastal Division against undefeated Georgia Tech.

After a summer which saw Europeans win three of four PGA Tour majors – including Martin Kaymer’s Open win at Pinehurst – as well as the Ryder Cup, Bernhard Langer and Colin Montgomerie lead the way in the SAS Championship at Prestonwood this weekend.

Marcus Paige was North Carolina’s leading scorer last year as a sophomore point guard, but he may end up as one of three point guards on the floor. How he handles his changing role may determine how far the Tar Heels go.

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Luke has worked for The News & Observer since 2000. He covered the Carolina Hurricanes and the NHL before becoming a sports columnist in August 2008. A native of Evanston, Ill., he graduated from the University of Pennsylvania.
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