Back when he was still with us, I’d sometimes meet up with former North Carolina State basketball coach Jim Valvano in Reynolds Coliseum for sit-downs dominated by manic laughter. But the one time V turned serious has always stuck with me—that day he delivered a rant about that rival school down Interstate 40. He groused that the local newspapers, notably the hometown Raleigh News and Observer, were populated by North Carolina journalism school grads. Everything at State was easy pickings, low-hanging fruit in the backyard. Chapel Hill, he said, might as well have been a million miles away.
If the past four years have shown us anything, it’s that those days are over. “The Carolina Way” is no longer shorthand for all that is admirable and salutary in college sports.
But say this for North Carolina: The Tar Heels have flogged themselves in the public square. Yes, the school had its hand forced. But by launching probe after probe to figure out what went wrong, the university has in a roundabout way told the world that yes, we are still different.
At least three times the university has looked into laughably lax “paper classes” to which athletes were steered. It has been an exercise in public proctology unimaginable at Auburn in the Cam Newton case, or Florida State with Jameis Winston, or just about any other state school with skin in the athletics game. And it reached its zenith Wednesday afternoon during a press conference at which both UNC system president Tim Ross and Chapel Hill chancellor Carol Folt praised a report by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein that led Ross to say, “I believe we now know all we’ll know about what happened and how it happened.”
If they succeed, four years will surely turn into five or more. And contrary to what President Ross said, there’ll be more to weigh “about what happened and how.”