In today’s local newspaper, The News & Observer, there’s a column by Patrick O’Neill, former sports and news writer for The Chapel Hill News, in which he outlines past problems he had covering UNC-Chapel Hill athletics and makes some strong suggestions—firing Roy Williams, for instance—to correct any ills of the Tar Heels program. His column, printed on the Op-Ed page, includes this passage: The NCAA is between a rock and a hard place because it badly needs North Carolina athletics to be vibrant and healthy. A few years of severe sanctions against UNC means a potentially huge revenue loss for the NCAA, from both television rights and post-season play.
Who is Mr. O’Neill kidding? Does he really think the NCAA’s ability to maximize its income from television rights and post-season play is dependent on the success of the basketball program at North Carolina? If he does, he’s might as well be living with Alice in Wonderland, fantasyland. No doubt over the years, the television networks have enjoyed big viewership when UNC was scheduled for TV, but, today, UNC’s following has little to do with the financial negotiations for TV revenue during the regular season or the NCAA tournament. Believe it or not, the NCAA Basketball Championship tournament is actually bigger than UNC basketball. Maybe the Duke-UNC games are big, but because UNC could be on probation, have “severe sanctions,” as Mr. O’Neill says, the viewership could increase to see if the bad program in Chapel Hill can whip the squeaky clean program in Durham.
The NCAA will be pressing full steam ahead with bringing the whole UNC scandal to an end, or maybe we should call it a beginning of a jail sentence that will cost UNC dearly when it comes to donations which are just as important to the program as the TV revenue its gains from the multibillion dollar deal the Atlantic Coast Conference has with ESPN. And, ESPN will not reduce its payment to the league based on any of the teams being on probation.
Only if UNC were to disband its basketball program would there be reason for that, and believe me on this: UNC will not disband its basketball program. Nor will it fire Roy Williams, no matter how he answers the question: What did you know and when did you know it? He may resign or retire, but firing him would be more of a black mark on the school than retaining him, even if Williams’ involvement is worse than what caused Jim Valvano to be fired from NC State in 1990. Valvano was under fire because of poor academic performance by his players. Williams’ guilt is associated with his players taking bogus classes to increase their academic standing. What a difference!
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oxter (noun) [ok-ster] the armpit