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Wainstein Report on UNC Should Make All Schools Rethink Athletics

Emil Photo Again Edited 61b7dabb61239

If you still haven’t heard or read or talked about the Wainstein investigation into the University of North Carolina, then what can I say?

You’re in denial.

You’ve got your head in the sand, or something worse.

You’ve forgotten the true goals of a valid higher education community.

But always, you love your football and college sports.

I don’t mean to be holier than thou, but an eight-month probe at UNC has just concluded that, between 1993 and 2011, as many as 3,000 students were in enrolled in a “shadow curriculum” that offered fake classes to a high percentage of student-athletes.

Shouldn’t you be alarmed?

Maybe you’re one of those administrators saying, “Better them than me.”

But don’t you think it’s time we all stopped drinking the Gatorade?

What’s worse is that everyone knew about it at UNC, and they just couldn’t stop themselves.

They tried.

The report by attorney Kenneth Wainstein, the former Department of Justice official commissioned by UNC, revealed a presentation made to the UNC football staff in November 2009.

In The Washington Post, the slide from the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes was detailed:

“We put [athletes] in classes that met degree requirements in which:

· They didn’t go to class.

· They didn’t take notes or have to stay awake.

· They didn’t have to meet with professors

· They didn’t have to pay attention or necessarily engage with the material.”

Then came a slide:


Wainstein told The Post the slide was the most striking thing he found. He said UNC’s head coach at the time, Butch Davis, claimed to have no recollection.

The so-called “paper classes,” however, did exist, and we’ve had reports about the scandal over the last three years.

But until Wainstein’s report, we just didn’t know how much it extended into the athletic realm of football, as well as men’s and women’s basketball at UNC.

And to think, some of us thought it was just about a few students looking to African-American studies for an easy A.

Wainstein’s report is the first to include interviews from the retired African and Afro-American Department head Julius Nyang’oro, and his secretary, Deborah Crowder, also retired.

They are believed to have begun the practice of creating independent study courses that looked like lectures.

They reportedly said they set up their program out of a sense of “compassion.”

The Washington Post said that “Crowder’s compassion stemmed from her time as an undergraduate at North Carolina in the early ’70s, when she thought the university catered excessively to only the “best and the brightest.”

Nyang’oro’s compassion was due to “two former student-athletes from early in his tenure who had left the school because of academic ineligibility, after which one became an inmate and the other a murder victim.”

Compassion is a good thing. But rationalization is not.

I have been an adjunct with a failing football player in class. I understand their dilemma.

I’m a softie at heart, and when a student wants a break, I want to help. But the work, or the effort has to be there.

Football does not equal class work.

The ones who get hurt aren’t even mentioned in all the stories.

How about the African-American and all ethnic studies scholars, who suffer when a massive UNC scandal confirms these courses are “Basketweaving 101”?

Diversity advocates fought hard for the right to be taken seriously in the academic world. You wouldn’t see other departments capitulating to student-athletes, would you? (Or maybe they just do a better job at it.)

So now the Wainstein report goes to the NCAA. And what makes you think they’ll do anything?

Here’s my solution: Make athletics truly separate from any school. Drop the pretense. You don’t have scholars. The athletes are like your fundraising wing. Open up football vocational academies that are under the university, but apart from the academic rigor.

It’s minor league football.

Baseball players do it all the time. Young hopefuls sign bonuses, skip college, play in the minors. Degree? Who needs it.

It’s de facto minor league football these days anyway. It’s just less honest. In an MLF run by colleges, schools can keep the money (that’s all they care about). When people get out, they leave with a certificate. Not a diploma. More like an AA. They can try to be the micro-percentage that makes it to the NFL. But maybe they can coach high school.

The positives: Academics weren’t compromised. You didn’t waste players’ time with Melville or biology.

You don’t have to worry about Jameis Winstons. They’re not students. They’re just contractors (oh yeah, you’ll have to pay the minor leaguers).

Indeed, football players get paid to play. Schools don’t have to give them fake African-American studies courses.

The alumni get to play an even bigger role.

And you, Mr. College Head, still make your money.

Just drop the pretense. Major college sports at the highest levels are incompatible with the goals of a major research institution. UNC proves it.

What about the A students who like to play sports? Oh, don’t you know? That’s why God made intramurals.

Emil Guillermo writes on issues of race, culture and politics for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund ( Like him at and on Twitter @emilamok.

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