In My Opinion: How UNC Got Here (Part 1)

Four years ago the UNC football program, ranked No. 18 at the time, was slated to take on a talented and nationally ranked LSU team in the college football kickoff in Atlanta.

With expectations through the roof, UNC was ready to prove that its sleeping giant of a football program had woken up. What they didn’t prepare for was an investigation into allegations that cheating, boosters, and scandal infiltrated the program. Butch Davis, hired in 2007, came to Chapel Hill with a reputation as an amazing recruiter and a so-so X’s and O’s coach, but many inside the program viewed this hire as a home run.

The university needed someone like Davis to transform the program from its status as a sleeping giant into a perennial contender in the ACC. Chapel Hill was already known as one of the premier college towns in America, not to mention the school’s commitment to academic success and their blue blood basketball program. The football team was simply a star power head coach and some talented skill players away from breaking through. Instead, controversy and scandal reared its ugly head and the university known for so long for “doing things the right way” was now under the national microscope for all the wrong reasons.

For the short term, UNC would be without 13 starters against LSU. Those 13 players were all key contributors, but were forced to sit out the primetime matchup as the NCAA questioned their eligibility. UNC put up a furious rally and fell just seven yards short of tying the game in the fourth quarter, and went on to lose 30-24.

How did this all start? A simple Tweet.

Defensive tackle Marvin Austin, Butch Davis’s first five star recruit, tweeted a picture from a club in Miami that a sports agent had hosted. From there the NCAA began an inquiry, and in 2011 began its formal investigation into academic improprieties, and the relationship between UNC student-athletes and agents – a relationship that would comprise players’ amateur status. The academic fraud allegations were highlighted by the assertion that tutors and external sources had written papers on the players’ behalf, allowing them to focus more of their time to succeeding on the field.

Little did we know, so many stones were about to be unturned, as the fraud went much deeper than players having peer tutors do their homework.

In March of 2012, the NCAA brought down the hammer. They found the university guilty of infractions including academic fraud, as well as failure to monitor the football program. The punishment fit the crime as UNC received a postseason ban for the 2012 year, was stripped of 15 scholarships, and was placed on probation for three years. Butch Davis lost his job, and the infractions put a black eye on an otherwise beautiful university with an impeccable academic record.

My dad is a UNC graduate, and both my sisters go there. My grandfather went there, my aunt went there, my cousins go there. In a sense, my family has developed a legacy there, and while I did not attend the university, I have a deep connection to it, and consider myself someone who bleeds Tar Heel Blue.

As much as it cut deep to see the university we grew up adoring suffer from such terrible national backlash, we believed the worst was behind us and UNC fans could move on. We were wrong.

This was just the beginning. Throughout the NCAA investigation there was skepticism that arose about the legitimacy and authenticity of the Afro-American Studies program. These so called “paper classes” were classes that students rarely had to attend, and required little work to receive an A. UNC took action and had an independent investigator look into it. The end result was that these questionable classes existed for the sole purpose of being an “easy A” and consisted of more than just student-athletes. And so as the microscope on UNC shined brighter the scandal grew into epic proportions.

*Section Photo credit to Streeter Lecka, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to SportsMedia 101

Week 9 Preview: Kentucky vs. (1) Mississippi State
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