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The rest of the story awaits

Erin Smith

October 8, 2013

More shenanigans have been revealed in the much ballyhooed and several years long investigation of the academic debacle at UNC. Last week the latest twist in the drama saw ex-UNC tutor Jennifer Wiley Thompson charged with violating the state’s sports agent laws.


It is alleged in court documents that Thompson provided airline tickets for then-UNC player Greg Little in 2010 and delivered cash money and other gifts to Little on behld of a Georgia based sports talent agent. In addition it has been alleged that Thompson also wrote papers and completed other assignments for her charges that were members of the UNC football team.


It remains to be seen how many of these allegations will hold up to the scrutiny of a judge and jury but the public seems to have made up their own mind about the process, those involved and who was and was not at fault. The once revered football program now has a black eye thanks to few unscrupulous and greedy folks.


Initially seemed that fired football coach Butch Davis was held out as the scape goat while folks in the academic side of things who were also equally accountable in my opinion were allowed to quietly retire with all of their benefits in tact.


Cheating is cheating, no matter who the guilty party is or what his or her reasons may have been. Some of the students in question, though very gifted athletes, were not doing the work required to earn their degrees. That much the investigation has revealed.


Had it not been for the gift of social media and a few players who just couldn’t keep their mouths shut, no one would have been the wiser to the scandal. The fact that some players took to Twitter and Facebook to brag about their exploits and violations gave the investigators with the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office and the NCAA all the ammunition they needed to go after the heralded program.


The whole investigation has been a public relations nightmare for the school with the powers that be calling it a which hunt and blaming the situation on everything else. The real source of the problem is the fact that college football translates into big bucks for large colleges that can produce power house programs. This translates into major dollars in form of television rights, ticket sales, and the ability to recruit the best of the very best players from across the United States. With that in mind, some programs will do anything to reach the upper echelons of football programs. Rankings in the top ten programs in the nation equal even more recruiting power and even more revenue generated for the college.


This insatiable need to generate revenue through athletics can create a mentality of “win at all costs.” So just who was minding the store at UNC during all of this mess? It seems the more that investigators dig into just what was going on, the greater the smell they unearth surrounding this program.


Frankly, it seems there should be a few more folks joining Mrs. Thompson in the courtroom. Certainly she and few football players didn’t create this scheme all by themselves. Those that should have known what was going on and have claimed to investigators to have no knowledge of what was taking place certainly deserve at least a written reprimand at minimum.


Folks, online courses that never met didn’t just magically appear in the course registration system and certain courses were not reserved for just the football players by some cosmic force. They were created to help them remain academically eligible to play. Someone or a few somebodies besides a tutor and few players knew about it.


UNC alumni members should be outraged that such measures were being taken with blatant disregard as to what level of damage this would do to the school’s reputation if it was discovered. The players that participated in this scheme should be ashamed of themselves and owe their fellow alumni members a huge apology.


As the plot thickens around the UNC scandal, it remains to be seen which heads, if any, will role next. It will be interesting now that the scandal has made it to the courtroom — the truth will finally be revealed and maybe, just maybe, we will all have a better understanding of the breadth and depth of the scandal and just how high up the ladder it went at the school.


Erin Smith is a staff writer at the Bladen Journal. She can be reached by email at erinsmith@civitasmedia.com or by telephone at 910-862-4163. You can also follow her on Twitter @ ErynnSmith.