Since 2010, the North Carolina athletic department has had hanging over it a dark cloud of allegations that threatens to rain down severe NCAA sanctions at any time.
And while everyone expects the Tar Heels’ eventual punishment to be severe, Maryland president Wallace Loh envisions a truly shocking outcome. Via The Charlotte News & Observer:
“As president I sit over a number of dormant volcanoes,” Loh said. “One of them is an athletic scandal. It blows up, it blows up the university, its reputation, it blows up the president.
“For the things that happened in North Carolina, it’s abysmal. I would think that this would lead to the implementation of the death penalty by the NCAA. But I’m not in charge of that.”
North Carolina stands accused of broad academic fraud and misconduct that stretched from 1993 to 2011. The athletic department allegedly arranged athletes, particularly football players, to take sham classes and helped them cheat on assignments. Various university and athletic department faculty were allegedly aware of the misconduct but didn’t intervene.
It’s unclear if Loh was suggesting the NCAA would blow up the North Carolina football program or (gasp!) the entire athletic department, but no Division I program has gotten the death penalty since SMU football in 1986.
According to ESPN, a Maryland spokesman said Loh’s comment “not a reflection of personal beliefs about the university or its leadership,” which begs the question: What exactly were they a reflection of? Loh probably didn’t expect his comments, made last week during a University of Maryland senate meeting, to go national, but that’s what happens when you say something provocative about a rival school.
ESPN also sought comment from North Carolina and received this response from vice chancellor of communications Joel Curran:
“We were surprised that a sitting university president with no direct knowledge of our case would choose to offer such uninformed and highly speculative opinions.”
The North Carolina athletic department will almost certainly face some truly severe consequences as a result of its academic scandal, but if Penn State didn’t get the death penalty after covering for a serial rapist, the Tar Heels are probably safe.