North Carolina, Jameis Winston Present NCAA Challenges

The athletic-academic scandal at the University of North Carolina and the juvenile behavior of Florida State QB Jameis Winston present major challenges to the NCAA, and the response from the organization that oversees collegiate athletics will have major ramifications for the future.

Both situations scream for some sort of a response from the NCAA.

The North Carolina situation is so huge, involving 3,100 “student”-athletes, and lasted so long, that it’s being called the largest scandal of its kind in the history of college sports. Considering some of the incidents that have occurred over the years, that’s saying a lot. Winston, meanwhile, may or may not have accepted payment for affixing his signature to thousands of items of memorabilia. But the reigning Heisman Trophy winner has been the center of a series of incidents — a sexual assault investigation, the theft of crab legs, yelling obscenities on campus — making it difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt. Florida State has kept him out of one game, and that was before the memorabilia information came out. No doubt, other universities, athletic department officials and student-athletes are watching the NCAA to see how, or whether, it addresses each situation.

Possibly your school.

What is scary about the North Carolina scandal is that it took place at one of the most prestigious public universities in the U.S. You fans at UCLA, Michigan and Virginia can no longer hide behind your alma mater’s academic standing and say “it can’t happen here.” Guess what? It can.

What is even scarier is that the North Carolina situation involved multiple coaching staffs in multiple sports over the years, people who have come from one school and gone to another and never uttered a peep. The only reason why not one person went, “Whoa! What’s going on at this place?” is that it was also happening at the school they came from. And the school they went to.

Like your school.

Whether this has a chance to be transformational in the culture of collegiate sports remains an open question. Jameis Winston is only the latest dubious player of note in collegiate athletics — a successor to Cam Newton, who at least straightened up after he was busted for stealing a laptop computer while at Florida. But no one thinks the current NFL QB was anything but a mercenary when he landed at Auburn and won a national championship. Maybe it’s instructive that neither the school administration, Southeastern Conference or NCAA did anything about him.

On the other hand, another prestigious university did take action when hit by an athletic scandal. The NCAA found that Cal — known outside sports as UC Berkeley, one of the finest schools in our land — had the lowest graduation rates of any school in the Pac-12. With Stanford, UCLA and Washington in the league, and Utah and the Arizona schools being pretty good academically, university officials in the league keep an eye on those types of things. And Cal, to its credit, has made some major changes in order to make sure that players really are student-athletes.

So what the University of North Carolina, Florida State University, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA do about these two glaring issues will be telling about the future we’re heading into. The power conferences are already picking up the bulk of the marbles and going off to play with just themselves, and they’ll be setting their own rules. At what point does a parent step in and tell them that enough is enough? Because these problems aren’t only happening at UNC and FSU. They could be happening at your school, too.

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