Tom Sorensen

UNC’s day in court with NCAA has arrived, and no Tar Heel will emerge smiling

University of North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham and others face the NCAA’s committee on infractions this week, and there’s not much chance it goes well.
University of North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham and others face the NCAA’s committee on infractions this week, and there’s not much chance it goes well. AP

North Carolina will meet the NCAA Wednesday in Nashville. When the NCAA investigation began I think Vinny Testaverde was the Carolina Panthers’ quarterback. The NCAA began to dig into North Carolina seven years ago. Then it would find something new. And it would dig again.

The crux of the NCAA’s complaint is the school’s shadow classes and in a shadow department. Good grades were waiting. All an athlete (and several non-athletes) had to do was show up and claim one.

This is a full-fledged scandal, and the stigma hangs above Kenan Stadium, the Dean E. Smith Center, above basketball and football recruiting and above every student who showed up for classes and earned a degree.

For years I heard from sanctimonious North Carolina fans that ripped N.C. State, or Clemson, for long ago misdeeds. They’ve stopped.

In the school’s defense, I also have heard from dozens of North Carolina graduates who, while frustrated by the pace of the NCAA allegations, are more frustrated with their school than with the organization investigating it.

The issues are complex and they swirl, seemingly changing every few months. The closed-door sessions conclude Thursday. We won’t know what the penalties will be, and the Tar Heels won’t know unequivocally until the final report is issued.

But the school at least will have an idea. Nobody from North Carolina should or will walk out smiling.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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