Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Yesterday Holden Thorp, the Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, resigned after only four years in the position. He was and is a thoroughly decent person, a renowned Chemistry Professor before he entered academic administration, who was swept up in an interminable series of scandals all of which can be traced to the university's revenue sports programs, football in particular.
The scandal began when a UNC football player revealed on Twitter that he was having a great time at a sports agent's lavish party. The investigation that followed revealed that there was systematic contact between football players and agents, and that at least one member of the coaching staff knew about it. That initial scandal led to revelations that football players were receiving inappropriate academic assistance from tutors provided by the university, and that at least one football player had engaged in blatant plagiarism on an academic paper. Then it was discovered that football players and other athletes were being guided toward "no-show" courses in the African and Afro-American Studies Department and were receiving inflated grades. And so on. The scandals are summarized in today's issue of the campus newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel.
UNC's scandal is yet another dreary example of a great educational institution losing its way in the hunt for big-time sports legitimacy. It also provides yet more evidence that the IRS's rationale for exempting athletic program revenue -- the quaint notion that sports are inextricably tied to schools' educational missions -- is absurd, at least when applied to big-time sports.