From an editorial Tuesday in the (Raleigh) News & Observer:
If officials of UNC-Chapel Hill are expecting ovations and breathless cheers for their announced guidelines for athletics and academics, posted in an online report, they are likely to be sorely disappointed.
Had academic and administrative leaders been doing their due diligence of oversight, this kind of report never would have been necessary.
But that’s not what happened. The African studies program offered high grades in exchange for little or no work, and athletes were guided there by an adviser system that seemed geared more to maintaining eligibility than to helping “student athletes” get their degrees. This embarrassment, once exposed by The News & Observer’s Dan Kane, led the university to spend millions on public relations agencies to “manage” the story and millions more on a high-powered report by a Washington lawyer that basically concurred with Kane’s reports.
And in the course of all this, a courageous whistle-blower was criticized by administrators, then given a six-figure settlement and her walking papers. That remains an embarrassment.
Now the university has guidelines: Coaches aren’t to go directly to faculty members about an athlete’s grades, advisers can’t offer any information to faculty members and those faculty members aren’t allowed to ask. While this website is welcome, it comes as the university remains under investigation for one of the biggest and longest-running scandals ever in college sports. The university itself has had several internal investigations over the last five years.
And while the athletics department and the academic departments may boast of these “rules,” the truth is that athletics programs can stay above difficulty with simple honesty. Good coaches shouldn’t recruit athletes who are borderline students and might not have been admitted in part of the regular competitive admissions scramble. Once admitted, coaches should monitor the progress of athletes toward a degree, not just in maintaining their eligibility. And coaches, no matter how successful, have to be held to standards or face consequences.
Academic leaders should make it emphatically clear to boosters that the university is not for sale, not to those who’ll fund elaborate facilities catering to the wealthiest alums or anyone else. In time, coaches’ salaries should be brought back into line. Chancellors and presidents have been predicting this for years, but it hasn’t happened. It should not take a scandal to bring sober, straightforward rules into place and to expect those in charge to see that they’re enforced.