North Carolina Football Allowing Players To Red Shirt Sends Wrong Message

Mike KlineAnalyst IOctober 21, 2010

Davis has overseen the football program during North Carolina's worst athletics scandal ever.
Davis has overseen the football program during North Carolina's worst athletics scandal ever.Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

So apparently if you are an athlete and cheat in college, you still get to play in the end.

That seems to be the case for some North Carolina football players involved in the academic and agent scandal that has rocked the otherwise squeaky clean flagship of the North Carolina University system.

Coach Butch Davis announced plans to red shirt or attempt to red shirt at least two players.

Charlie Brown appears to have finally caught a break.

The senior corner back who allegedly  is to have committed academic violations will be put on probation for two semesters, allowing him to red shirt and have a second senior year.

Davis made the announcement Wednesday during his coaches show.

He also said he will attempt to red shirt running back Ryan Houston. Houston, though, may have to sacrifice that red-shirt year if an injury befalls one of only two active running backs left on the roster.

While the decisions appear to be within the rules, is it sending the right message?

The scandal which cost former coach John Blake his job as well as the eligibilities of three of the Tar Heels most highly regarded players in Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn has been a blight on what was to be a stellar season for UNC.

While those three players plus Blake were the major part of the scandal that involved players receiving inappropriate benefits from agents, the second part involving an overly helpful tutor cost North Carolina more of its key players.

The university, which prides itself on its academics as well as its overall integrity in student athletics, had an opportunity to clean house and send a clear and concise message that this behavior, no matter how trivial it may seem, is unacceptable.

Instead, the Tar Heels give players a free pass by allowing them to essentially get the season back with a red shirt.

It isn't like the players were just academically inept or broke some minor rules that fall in a gray area. These players knowingly cheated, or broke rules that have been clearly established.

By allowing them to red shirt, North Carolina is basically slapping them on the wrist. A real punishment would have been a loss of a season of eligibility, especially if the violation was as serious as academic fraud.

It is bad enough college athletics pretend to be about the "student-athlete." But when a school seen as one of the better and more successful academic institutions allows its football coach to make decisions that are clearly in the best interest of the football team instead of the integrity of the university, one has to wonder.

Davis, while playing the role of Sergeant Shultz well, has to have some culpability in all this. And UNC athletics director Dick Baddour would have done well to force Davis to cut ties with more than just Austin, Little and Quinn, especially if academics were involved.

Instead the coach and university claim the decision is in the best interest of the future of the students, but really it is about the future of the football team.

For a while it was hard to see Davis keeping his job, but with decisions like these being allowed, the university has stated loud and clear they support their coach. They are also clearly stating that a successful football team is more important.