|The truth is, we don't really know yet what will or won't happen to UNC by the hand of the NCAA. (Getty Images)|
Are so many so desperate to see UNC get its head chopped off that they're willing to forsake patience for immediate backlash at the first sign of a free pass?
In the past few days, many writers have rushed to judgment over the NCAA's perceived rush to a lack of judgment with the North Carolina academic scandal. Few things are easier to write in this business than a bludgeon-the-NCAA column, so I guess it's understandable. What I don't get is: Are people still unaware that there's still a lot of paperwork to file in this case? Or are they bloodthirsty over blaming someone or something for this. It almost feels like fake hustle at this point.
Jason McIntyre, editor of The Big Lead, wrote a quick post recently that dripped with the type of cynicism most hold for the NCAA these days. Not even these days, really. This kind of pessimism over the NCAA has become mainstream dogma for more than three decades. Another recent example was Sports Illustrated's Michael Rosenberg, who was very much at the ready and cantered to the podium to kill the NCAA as soon as the first hint of NCAA leniency was revealed against UNC.
As we sit and wait, the University of North Carolina -- not the NCAA -- continues to go through its academic records and conduct internal interviews with professors and possibly former players at the university. Did the school have myriad students breeze through two types of departments/courses -- African and Afro-American Studies -- without so much as attending classes or taking tests?
The evidence suggests so. But black-and-white proof or firsthand, on-record accounts are still not turning up. The NCAA is merely playing chaperone to the investigation right now, though. UNC and the NCAA have been working hand in hand with this case for more than a year now. No punishments doled out is cause for real flak at this point, it seems. But this is the NCAA. "Glacial" is a word that comes to mind.
Jeff Jacobs, the best sports columnist residing in Connecticut (and I think the only man working at a Nutmeg State newspaper willing to unflinchingly go after Jim Calhoun), came down on the NCAA in this column from Wednesday. He is by no means an apologist for the school or the legendary coach. So when he speaks up on behalf of UConn, it's got gravity under it.
Jacobs writes in the Hartford Courant, "With the decision to clear North Carolina of wrongdoing in its academic scandal, the NCAA has turned itself ... "
Let's stop things there. The NCAA hasn't turned itself into anything. In many ways, sure, it's a joke, and I can see why it can continue to be. But in general with the Monolith up there in Indy, there's a lot of good and a lot of bad. The punishments are never even. With UNC, there is still much to be fleshed out. I wrote it in the post last week, but it's clear this needs reiteration: UNC, not the NCAA, released that report (on a Friday heading into a holiday weekend, no less). UNC, not the NCAA, is looking into its past and lifting stones. Criticism over the NCAA's timidness in going full bore is fair and expected.
The NCAA is merely a partner watchdog here. But, but, but: It can still punish. It hasn't yet, but the investigation at this point is about 25 percent done. There is so much left to be revealed. If the NCAA does decide to punish the school, I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest. In fact, I'm expecting it. To what degree? That's a different story.
More from Jacobs, who makes a good point here.
Cartoon jurisprudence. Right sometimes. Wrong other times. Blind in one eye (Carolina in this case, Auburn with Cam Newton) seeking vengeance with the other (Penn State). Seeming to make the rules up as it goes along.
It has grown clear now. UConn was bounced by the NCAA from its 2013 basketball tournament because it was stupid enough to turn in accurate transcripts of its players' grades. North Carolina, meanwhile, was cleared by the NCAA of running sham classes with fraudulent grades and credits. So many Tar Heel athletes were not held in NCAA violation because — get this — the sham classes were available to non-athletes.
Equal opportunity fraud.
Here's the message: If you do poorly honestly, you're out.
If you fake it, you're in.
The problem is, the point is accurate but premature.
I don't know what's bound to happen to UNC. Will it be just, or primarily, the football program that is hit? Or will basketball turn up a fraud case or two? I get the feeling a lot of opposing fans were ready to celebrate and a lot of writers were ready to applaud the NCAA with this case. But then the first story without consequence came out and then everybody threw up their arms and left the courtroom before the jury finished reading off the rest of the counts.
Let's. Just. Wait. The Penn State case isn't this case (which also didn't see an NCAA investigation). And the problem with this philosophical line of thinking is, situations aren't always comparable. The NCAA can never win, long-term, in public opinion because we'll always want to weigh one crime and punishment against another, when the fact is, we're working different shades of wrong here. And beside that, what's worse to you, Penn State's vomit-inducing lack of action or UNC players earning a few easy As? Because the resentment I've seen over the NCAA's slow trigger at Carolina is suggesting people want to put the two crimes on a the same level. They most certainly are not, and it's kind of disgusting to drag Penn State back into this anyway.
This goes beyond UNC, too. You can tell by reading UConn AD Warde Manuel's comments in Jacobs' column and sense it in the frenzied finger-pointing by N.C. State and Kentucky fans toward Chapel Hill. It's as much about UNC as it is about their schools.
We can have outrage, widespread agitation, regret and lament, but let's save that energy until all outcomes have been settled. There are three more internal investigations left to be resolved and an external probe of the UNC program as well. The NCAA has staggered to ultimate stupidity before and it can again. Here, we'd be better off waiting to see if UNC's time is going to come, lest we be the ones who came to conclusions too early.