A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the UNC Scandal

George Leef

When the University of North Carolina's academic and athletic scandal first began to materialize before the public eye, the institution's administration sought to cover it up and handle those faculty members who smelled a deep problem. They were told that top officials would ferret out the truth and rectify whatever needed rectifying. Instead, however, they tried to cover it up -- much like a criminal might try to beat a felony rap by copping to a little misdemeanor. Two faculty members who wouldn't keep quiet so that the school could just "move on" have written an excellent book about the affair. That book is Cheated by Jay Smith and Mary Willingham. In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, I write about the book.

UNC has long tried to portray itself as a sports school that makes sure its "student-athletes" are truly students and that they get a superb education at UNC. After reading Cheated, it's impossible not to laugh at that notion. But many other big sports schools have similar recruiting and eligiblity operations that put winning teams first and education for the players second -- if it matters at all. Often it doesn't.

Cheated is an extremely valuable expose, but I doubt that it will lead to significant changes. The true problem is rooted in the incentives: the incentives to bring in big money with sports victories for the schools and equally the incentive to ignore learning while aiming at the long-shot of professional sports for many students.

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