Martin report avoids the central question
RALEIGH -- To conclude that former Gov. Jim Martin's review of the athletic and academic scandal that has enveloped the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was a meaningless exercise would be unfair.
Unfortunately, many people will come to that conclusion because the report from Martin and the management consulting firm Baker-Tilly fails to answer critical questions raised by revelations regarding student-athletes enrolled in bogus or questionable course at the school.
The real value of the 77-page report resides in findings that show, in detail, how bogus lecture courses and questionable independent study courses offered by the university's African and Afro-American Studies Department spiked from 2003 until 2008, while going back as far as 1997.
That is the report's strength.
The weaknesses include a sweeping conclusion that the scandal is "isolated" and is academic in its origins and not athletic.
How Martin et al could reach that conclusion without answering the most basic question facing the university, the one that all those associated with UNC-Chapel Hill appear willing to go to any lengths to avoid, is a mystery.
That basic question: Who was responsible for steering athletes to these courses?
To come to the conclusion that the Martin report reaches, one has to believe that two people, a professor and his departmental administrator, invented the scheme out of whole cloth and without intending to benefit athletes.
One also must believe that football and basketball players found out about the courses through osmosis.
The evidence from investigative reporters Dan Kane and Andy Curliss of The News & Observer of Raleigh establishes an open-and-shut case that it simply didn't happen that way.
Former UNC football player Marvin Austin was enrolled in a questionable, upper-level course in the summer before beginning his first full semester as a freshman. How did he know to do that, and who arranged it?
Eighteen football players and a former player filled up a bogus summer course within four days of its creation. So, we are to believe that the good professor called the players, without ever speaking to anyone in academic advising or the athletics department?
And how about that naval weapons course, attended by six basketball players just as an adjunct professor eased up on the course requirements?
The Martin report's explanation of that course is that departmental administrators were looking to counter bad publicity for ROTC courses, evidenced by graffiti on campus, and cast a wider net for students.
There is no mention of whether the dog ate the old syllabus.
The report also states that no evidence was found that academic advisers colluded with professors to create the courses. Interestingly enough, it doesn't specifically mention whether the review looked for collusion between the athletics department and instructors.
That university officials and those whom they employ have again avoided the central question posed by two years of unsavory revelations leads to the obvious conclusion that the answers must be pretty awful.
Still, they continue to deceive themselves that the stain can be washed away without answering it.