Update 3/26/2017: Look at that, UNC was good enough this year that the NCAA investigation continued to stall! At this point, I'd be willing to bet money that if any punishment happens, it'll be probationary in nature and issued immediately following the retirement of Roy Williams. I can't stress this enough: the university's accreditation was under review. It's certainly worth revisiting the extent to which North Carolina is receiving unprecedentedly friendly treatment from the governing body in the wake of their second consecutive Final Four appearance.
On the eve of its eleventh anniversary, I took some time the other night to watch the 2005 Illinois Fighting Illini complete an epic comeback against the Arizona Wildcats in the Elite 8. One of the greatest games in the history of the NCAA tournament propelled Illinois to the Final Four, where they would eventually fall to the North Carolina Tar Heels in the NCAA championship game.
Of course, as it turns out, a familiar story was playing out: UNC was playing well outside the rules, as a 2014 re-opening of an older investigation would later confirm. Second-leading scorer Rashad McCants would later confirm that not only did tutors write all of his essays, but he even landed on the Dean's List for a semester during which he never once attended a class. As it turned out, the African-American and Diaspora Studies major largely consisted of sham courses with an end-of-term essay as their only requirements. This had been traced back to at least 1997, during the last days of Dean Smith's tenure as head coach. I'll put aside the irony of Dean Smith's Wikipedia page classifying him as an "American civil rights activist" when practices initiated during his tenure have tarnished the reputation of the entire field of African-American studies, which will surely face criticism for being a "fake major" as it was at UNC. Instead I'll talk about the fallout from a scandal serious enough to gain attention from accrediting bodies.
The most similar case to the UNC scandal was perpetrated by the Minnesota Golden Gophers men's basketball team under Clem Haskins. The NCAA hit Minnesota with major sanctions including the dreaded "lack of institutional control." As USA Today's Steve Weiberg wrote back in 2001:
It was two years ago last March that the St. Paul Pioneer Press began pulling back the curtain on what the NCAA eventually would classify as the worst academic scandal to hit a college athletic program in a couple of decades, revolving around a tutor who wrote papers for at least 18 players over a 5-year period and a coach — Clem Haskins — who allegedly tolerated the practice.
Haskins was forced to resign, as was the athletic director, and the 1997 Final Four appearance was vacated. Scholarship and recruiting restrictions damaged the program considerably. They've been to the tournament just four times since the 1999 scandal, with the first coming in 2005, and haven't been back to the Sweet 16. Haskins was hit with a seven year show-cause penalty.
Although it shouldn't make a difference, some would argue that a top athletic brand would be treated differently, and there's some truth to this. See, the same year Roy Williams got his first title, the USC Trojans football team under Pete Carroll had won the 2004 BCS National Championship (yes, the game was played in 2005), which was later vacated due to players (especially Reggie Bush) receiving substantial payments. To this day, Carroll is criticized for his conveniently-timed jump to the NFL just before the sanctions came.
So, what became of Roy Williams and the Tar Heels? Where are they now that the NCAA charged them with a lack of institutional control last June?
They're in the fucking Final Four!
Somehow, the fact that even more institutional fraud in other sports emerged meant the sanctions were delayed indefinitely. Quite convenient timing, considering that Roy Williams described this year's Tar Heels as "his favorite team of all time". This team will send most of its players to the NBA, and Williams will retire at that juncture. Then and only then will the NCAA consider acting. Even though the University is being sued by former athletes because they received no education, the Roy Williams Basketball Academy has rolled into the Final Four because the NCAA lacks either the authority or the will to step in and say that this is not acceptable.
Of course, they were much more decisive with SMU, which is good, because at least the sanctity of the tournament was preserved by banning a team that was poised to follow up its play-in game loss to UCLA last year with a potential Round of 32 run.
A former UNC football player indicated that the football program's sanctions under Butch Davis were for exactly what the basketball team had been doing. Roy WIlliams is absolute slime, and yet CBS will spend at least one more full-game broadcast fellating him before this tournament is over. Here's a look back at Roy Williams' first NCAA title:
2005 NCAA title team:
Jackie Manuel - AFAM degree
Sean May - AFAM degree
David Noel - AFAM degree
Melvin Scott - AFAM degree
Reyshawn Terry - AFAM degree
Quentin Thomas - AFAM degree
Jawad Williams - AFAM degree
Marvin Williams - No degree
Raymond Felton - No degree
Rashad McCants - No degree
It's entirely reasonable to say that not a single one of those players should have been academically eligible. Regardless of what rules the players and teams should or shouldn't be subject to, the rules are there and most other teams have to play by them. Retroactively vacating the 2005 and 2009 titles would be a nice gesture, but wouldn't really undo the damage. However, the least the NCAA could do is to prevent that slick bastard and his functionally illiterate student-athletes from continuing to benefit from fraud.
Instead, because they're North Carolina, here they are in the fucking Final Four again. Surely the way that the fouls suddenly started piling up against key Providence Friars late in the game was enough of an advantage for a team with UNC's raw basketball talent that they didn't need massive academic fraud to give them an extra boost.
I hope North Carolina gets crushed by the 10th-ranked team in their own conference (Syracuse) and I hope all their players eventually have to use their worthless degrees. I hope Roy Williams gets kicked out of the Hall of Fame and banned from basketball. If you are currently reading this post out loud to an illiterate UNC basketball player, I hope your name turns up in the final ruling and you get exiled along with Roy Williams.
None of that will happen though. The Final Four run of these UNC Shit Heels destroys the NCAA's credibility and lays bare their favoritism, and the more lopsided their defeat is, the better off college basketball will be.
If you don't agree with this, I can only assume you're a Tar Heel born and a Tar Heel bred and you love a program that should be dead.
3/26/2017 Postscript: Absolutely nobody outside their own fanbase is happy for UNC. If there's any justice in the world, the Tar Heels will lose decisively in their next game.