In January of 2018, 15 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill football players sold team-issued sneakers to retailers for huge profits. They were given the shoes, and then sold them the following day. Two players took their shoes back within a couple days, and returned the money. The remaining 13 took no action until athletics director Bubba Cunningham was notified of the issue. The school self-reported to the NCAA, and the players, including the starting quarterback and two defensive ends, will be suspended for the first four games.
As a Carolina fan, and, more importantly, student, I feel concerned and upset by the actions of the team.
Carolina is a great school, with a reputable and talented athletics program. It is not fair to the other teams, or even the other players on the football team, that the football program remains riddled with instances like these.
Unfortunately, this harkens back to the paper class scandal which was only recently resolved. Football players enrolled in classes in which no attendance was required; the sole requirement was one or two papers, with the expectation that everyone would receive a high grade. If you go to Carolina, chances are someone (typically a bitter Duke or NC State student) has pointed to these paper classes as a reason you go to an inferior school.
These paper classes, which typically involved football players, almost cost the basketball team a championship title.
Each breaking scandal from our football team calls into question both the athletics and the academics of the school as a whole, making a very prestigious university appear slightly less prestigious with each new incident. Moreover, the football scandals shape the recruiting classes the school is able to obtain. UNC-Chapel Hill has a very weak football team (as compared with both other schools and other UNC sports teams). Ideally, this could change with a better recruiting class. However, with scandals like these, most truly impressive high school recruits do not want to be associated with the program.
Clearly, this is a problem. The question is, what measures can reasonably be taken to resolve it?
Both Coach Larry Fedora and athletics director Bubba Cunningham have assured the NCAA and the press that they will take the necessary measures to reprimand the team, and players will be suspended. This does not, however, ensure that nothing similarly damaging might happen in the future. Rather, it sounds a bit like a slap on the wrist for students who, if not playing for the football team, would have received far greater punishment.
Character and the honor code are carefully ingrained into Carolina students, and have long been school policy. Basketball coach Roy Williams makes a point to make this a substantial piece of his coaching - why is it any different for football? I think the critical point here is that football players be every bit student that they are athlete: punishment for transgressions and scandals must be equal to what it would be for any other student, and character must be a centrally emphasized point.