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Caulton Tudor

Probes thus far have had little on-field impact on UNC football

Posted July 3

UNC Football Helmet

Regardless of how and when this latest NCAA investigation into UNC ends, there’s little chance it will take any sort of substantial toll on the football team’s performance this season.

Recent history has taught us that much.

This will be the fifth straight football season that will begin under some sort of probe for the Tar Heels and only once – 2011 – did the seemingly endless saga really have a major impact on how the team played.

Even then, it was more a case of the football players feeling ambushed by the awkward timing of Butch Davis’ firing than any sort of stifling from the NCAA and/or an institutional magnifying glass.

When Carolina fired Davis on July 27, 2011 and appointed assistant Everett Withers as interim coach, the players and coaching staff were dazed to such an extent that it was impossible for everyone to stay focused on the mission for an entire season.

That team did take a 5-1 overall record into mid-season but essentially imploded over the final six games, finishing 7-6 and 3-5 ACC. The administration then committed a mistake by accepting a bid to the Independence Bowl, where the Heels were lucky to escape with a 41-24 loss to Missouri. The team’s defense was so completely overwhelmed that it was obvious several of the players had no desire to play.

But other than 2011, the football team basically has managed to keep any probe distractions out of the locker room and certainly out of the huddle.

The 2012 team, Larry Fedora’s first, was ineligible for postseason play but would have won the ACC Coastal at 5-3 (8-4 overall) and lost three games by a combined total of nine points.

Davis’ final team in 2010 overcame close early losses to LSU and Georgia Tech to finish 4-4 in the conference, 8-5 overall and ended with a win over Tennessee in the Franklin Mortgage Bowl.

Last season’s 4-4 ACC, 7-6 overall record was in line with expectations even though the mid-season 1-5 record suggested pending disaster. Instead, the team adjusted to quarterback Bryn Renner’s season-ending injury in the eighth game and won the Belk Bowl with ease over Cincinnati. The one loss during the second half of the season was by two points to Coastal champ Duke.

After that 39-17 bowl win in Charlotte, Fedora and his team were convinced an important corner had been turned and great things might lie just ahead.

“I’m excited now, I’m telling you,” Fedora said after bowl. “I’m really excited about the future. We’re going in the right direction.”

Fedora, like his players, now will dearly detest the same ol’, same ol’ probe dialogue they will face during the ACC summer Kickoff event July 20-21 in Greensboro.

It’s unavoidable, of course. The NCAA’s return to campus will be a constant topic during the interview sessions.

The scandal seemingly has developed a life of its own and more than ever, the prospect of a stinging penalty is possible. If it’s true that former African and Afro-American Studies professor Julius Nyang’oro will testify in full detail about how and why the fraudulent grade process began, the potential reaction from the NCAA could be far more severe than anything that has happened to date.

But how long this stage of inquiry will last is impossible to predict. Private investigator Kenneth Wainstein said recently he hopes to complete his work by autumn, which begins Sept. 22. The NCAA could keep digging longer.

And yet through it all, the football program has been remarkably buoyant, winning its share of ACC and overall games and recruiting high school with above-average success. Most of the recruit rating services had the incoming class among the top 30 nationally and a handful of 4-star high school players already have committed to sign next February.

In many ways, it will be business as usual for the Heels.

42 Comments

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  • Winchester-.308 Jul 5, 12:54 p.m.

    Actually, UNC is more than just it's athletic programs. Which is why over 31,000 applications... View More

    — Posted by heelfan4l1fe

    These applicants realize it is very easy to get a degree at unc. What academically challenged in... View More

    — Posted by early exit Roy

    I'm sure you would like to believe that, but the facts do not support that.

    In addition, when... View More

    — Posted by heelfan4l1fe

    KERRRRSLAPPPP!

  • heelfan4l1fe Jul 4, 3:11 p.m.

    Actually, UNC is more than just it's athletic programs. Which is why over 31,000 applications... View More

    — Posted by heelfan4l1fe

    These applicants realize it is very easy to get a degree at unc. What academically challenged in... View More

    — Posted by early exit Roy

    I'm sure you would like to believe that, but the facts do not support that.

    In addition, when you admit nearly 50% of your applicants, such as NC State does, it should not be surprising that the enrollment is higher.

    But the facts are that the demand is greater for UNC and the selectivity is much higher, as are the grades and test scores.

    Sorry.

  • GETOUT Jul 4, 11:45 a.m.

    Its weird that so many commenters devalue UNC athletes when their respective schools recruit and salivate over the same guys during the recruitment process. They didnt all of a sudden dumb down once they got to UNC. They were acdemically challenged from the time someone told them "just keep playing, we will push you through". All these schools know these kids arent smart, that whu tutors are provided by all schools in the two major sports, football and basketball. As long as you keep playing and keep your mouth shut we will get you through. Its a money thing for each school.

  • Tar Heels Blue Jul 4, 10:24 a.m.

    What's really sad is that this has been going on for 4 YEARS - and counting! NCAA should have... View More

    — Posted by Got Peart

    Your statement that people go to UNC because of the name may be true for some, but for me, and I'm sure a vast majority of UNC students and graduates, I attended because of their academics (in the late 70's, early 80's). To put all UNC students (past and present) in the same category as the student-athletes who didn't do the school work, is to put all Americans in the same category as criminals. I agree that UNC has a big issue with academics and athletes; however, you all know that there are other universities that are accepting athletes who can't read or write. UNC has rejected some athletes until they went to an academy to bolster their grades to be accepted. The education deficit begins with the "leave no child behind" policy. I graduated high school in 1971 and in those days there were students who graduated at 21 years of age because they kept failing classes. Now, students are pushed through the school system.

  • heels2 Jul 3, 6:23 p.m.

    "If it's true" are cowardly words for even an amateur writer to hide behind.

  • uBnice Jul 3, 5:33 p.m.

    The facts are that they all existed in one program. A very sorry event, but it hardly cheapens... View More

    — Posted by heelfan4l1fe

    Exactly. to judge an entire student body on the actions of a very small percentage is... View More

    — Posted by GunnyGoesArrrgh

    Also, from what I have seen, transcripts show that in the other classes these guys did not do well. So, there is evidence that this is a very localized academic fraud.

  • GunnyGoesArrrgh Jul 3, 4:57 p.m.

    The facts are that they all existed in one program. A very sorry event, but it hardly cheapens... View More

    — Posted by heelfan4l1fe

    Exactly. to judge an entire student body on the actions of a very small percentage is short-sighted, and to say the diplomas of every graduate of UNC are devalued is absurd.

  • gsms69 Jul 3, 4:57 p.m.

    As with typical Tudor columns, he fills up a page and says nothing. He should have been a politician. Will someone post what he said? Or meant to Say?

  • early exit Roy Jul 3, 4:56 p.m.

    Actually, UNC is more than just it's athletic programs. Which is why over 31,000 applications... View More

    — Posted by heelfan4l1fe

    These applicants realize it is very easy to get a degree at unc. What academically challenged individual wouldn't want to go there. But it still plays second fiddle to NC State for total enrollment.

  • heelfan4l1fe Jul 3, 3:58 p.m.

    What does that mean exactly?

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