Ole Miss did the right thing to pay Laremy Tunsil, UNC did the wrong thing denying their student-athletes an education.
It was revealed in an interesting moment of blunt honesty that Ole Miss paid Laremy Tunsil to be a student-athlete in Tunsil’s first press conference as a Miami Dolphin. Offensive Linemen do not get too much attention from the media in the professional ranks, but given the hack of his social media accounts ten minutes prior to the NFL Draft by an individual that was intent on embarrassing Tunsil, it was clear that he was going to receive a lot of attention. Most people and media members were talking about Laremy Tunsil taking a bong hit out of a gas mask on video rather than the far less dramatic picks of Jared Goff and Carson Wentz in the first two picks of the NFL Draft.
LAREMY TUNSIL SMOKING OFF A GAS MASK pic.twitter.com/3hnGA9tK3r
— Kev (@ImNotLit) April 28, 2016
Several things to note here about this video:
- Many thought that Tunsil posted this video himself onto Twitter, it would be proved that this was a hack.
- Tunsil closed down his Twitter account in an act of damage control and to try to take power out of the hands of the hacker.
- The hacker was not done as Tunsil was left blindsided as more revelations came out.
- Tunsil claims that this video was taken several years ago.
- Tunsil’s draft position dropped considerably as a result of the video.
- This video was likely made sometime during Tunsil’s time at Ole Miss and it probably happened in Oxford. How often does one see a flag with Colonel Reb on a backdrop of the Confederate Battle Flag in the portion of North Florida that is not the Panhandle?
- Many people use marijuana and it is understandable for an organization to not want their employees or independent contractors to use it. However, the Reefer Madness sort of reaction to a guy that spent years taking on likely life-shortening collisions for free* is a bit outrageous.
Further Revelations about Tunsil
Somebody must really hate Laremy Tunsil to make him go through all of this on one of the most important days of life. Today was supposed to be a life-changing day filled with joy and opportunity. Instead, it was a complete exposé brought to light by someone with a long standing grudge. Also, Tunsil’s password management may be downright dreadful. Here are some password tips from Edward Snowden (Regardless of where you stand on his views and actions, the tips he offers are actually very useful and completely apolitical).
Tunsil’s Instagram account shows screenshots of texts between himself and Assistant Athletics Director for Football Operations, John Miller.
These texts can easily be faked in some fashion by the hacker, but Tunsil came clean about it last night.
Reporter “So, was there an exchange between you and your coach of money?”
Laremy Tunsil ” I’d have to say yeah.” pic.twitter.com/UaF1TlbHkm
— Ben Bolton (@BoltonSports) April 29, 2016
Is it an NCAA violation for a student-athlete to receive outside funding or to be paid in any way by staffers? Yes, it is.
Does it mean that the NCAA provision to maintain student-athletes’ status as amateurs is the right thing? Absolutely not.
Ole Miss Blew Their Opportunity to Win in the Court of Public Opinion
The University of Mississippi does not have a positive image with a majority of the country. Ole Miss conjures up thoughts of past racist activity, controversial songs and emblems, struggles to have a majority of their student body to be from the State of Mississippi, opulence contrasted with extreme poverty AND of course the idea of “Thank God for Mississippi”. Ole Miss is a punching bag in a state that has taken enough haymakers. The State of Mississippi is crippled by its past and garners no sympathy nor appreciation, the same can be extended upon Ole Miss.
Ole Miss has changed in many ways, but much of the nation does not choose to recognize it because much of the nation would not be able to reconcile 2016 Ole Miss with their visions of 1962 Ole Miss. The idea that the University of Mississippi, a so-called “backward school” in a so-called “Backward State” could ever be considered ahead of the curve in terms of policy, thought or innovation is too tough for many to ever conceive. The University of Mississippi had their opportunity to do just that and take the extremely popular high ground, which would have forced the same people that hate, deride and mock them to be their advocates.
When the University of Mississippi Athletics Department was served with 30 NCAA violations in three different sports, it was viewed as a comeuppance and a punishment. Nobody was sympathetic to Ole Miss, especially fans that cheer for rival schools.
Anybody that is remotely surprised by this Ole Miss thing has not paid attention to football in the last 5-7 years, cheaters gonna cheat
— Grant Alan Long (@glong62) January 29, 2016
Ole Miss finally getting looked into! 5 days before NSD too! Take that cheaters
— Gamecock Trey (@GamecockTrey) January 29, 2016
Ole Miss had an opportunity to stand up to the NCAA on the matter of amateurism and the silliness of the denying student-athletes the right to accept money from outside institutions and individuals. An ordinary student at Ole Miss is able to create a Kickstarter, take money from local alumni groups, work several jobs or build a profitable business without needing permission from the NCAA to do so. However, student-athletes are restricted and separated from their fellow students in terms of their freedom of make or collect an income. Most student-athletes are involved in “non-revenue sports” and likely would not be able to make much off their likenesses or even a percentage of ticket sales, but they would be able to independently earn money if they were allowed to be treated like ordinary students.
The idea of forcing student-athletes to maintain their “amateur status” implies that 18-23 year olds with athletic ability are not capable of making money and handling finances. It’s a paternalistic approach that smacks of a plantation mentality among those that wish to maintain the status quo. Ole Miss is perceived as the ultimate plantation (wrongly, of course). If Ross Bjork, the innovative and personable Athletic Director at the University of Mississippi, really wanted to change perceptions of the school and to allow for the free market principles that the constituents of the State of Mississippi typically vote for to be carried through, he would have stood up to the NCAA. If it meant taking the NCAA to court concerning this provision, then it is the option that he should have taken. Leading a movement where many schools allow for student-athlete compensation is tough for an NCAA body to suppress, especially when losing in the court of public opinion.
The argument that the student-athletes receive payment from the universities in the form of an education is moot because the institutions would be under no obligation to pay the student-athletes, it is an end to the restriction on receiving money from outside sources. Laremy Tunsil would not have had to ask John Miller for money, he could have asked an Ole Miss booster that set up a trust for student-athletes in need for the funds. Tunsil could have even asked an Ole Miss alumnus for funding to help him build a business in exchange for equity, but instead the status quo holds down these student-athletes like Tunsil from even considering such an endeavor. The message from the NCAA to student-athletes is that they want them poor until they graduate, if they graduate at all.
It’s all very hard to defend and the argument that the “compensation” of education for student-athletes is more than generous compared to their fellow students is also a horrible argument. Consider that many institutions steer student-athletes into particular majors because their athletic schedule does not mesh with class schedules for a good number of majors. There are also fears that the student-athlete may not be able to handle the course load or is simply not able to handle the course material that the ordinary student is able to digest and apply. If this is not bad enough, some institutions only value the student-athletes for their athletic accomplishments and to them the educational experience is not only secondary, it is an impediment that must be overcome.
UNC-Chapel Hill Deserves the Wrath, but Will Not Get It
The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill (UNC) is one of the best public institutions of higher learning in the United States and possibly in the world. It’s difficult to deny this as it is a southern university that has built incredible goodwill across the country and is extremely influential. The goodwill was forged by the academic rigor, college town environment, popular student-athletes (most notably, Michael Jordan) and progressive figures. UNC enjoys a large endowment and pristine reputation. It is an institution that an out-of-state student would want to attend, but the high cost of tuition, room and board along with the extremely difficult admissions standards make it a challenging to attain option. Student-athletes that are not from the State of North Carolina, should logically enjoy the benefit of being a student at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, Eshelman School of Pharmacy, School of Media and Journalism and others. However, many student-athletes did not get that opportunity.
Student-athletes were steered and placed into majors within the African and Afro-American Studies departments. As if this was not strange enough considering that the students steered into these concentrations and classes happened to be BLACK, they were also deemed too incompetent to bother actually taking the classes.
Not to rehash the case against UNC-Chapel Hill losing SACS accreditation, which is an excellent breakdown of what the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill did wrong and why they deserved a harsh punishment from the same accrediting body that the University of Georgia has. UNC-Chapel Hill actively denied student-athletes from taking legitimate classes, placed some into fictitious classes and pushed them into majors that provided the guise of an actual student experience. The grades were negotiated to ensure eligibility and the course load was designed to keep the focus on the particular sport that the student-athlete was involved.
Unlike Ole Miss, this sort of behavior did not happen for a few years, it spanned nearly two decades. The Wainstein Report that is the source of many violations had conveniently covered activity going back to 1993, which happened to be when the Men’s Basketball Team won the NCAA Title. This should seem rather suspicious as there are reports that the illegitimate behavior on the part of UNC-Chapel Hill goes at least all the way back to 1989.
Running this all down, the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill destroyed the academic value of their institution and at least two departments for the purposes of winning in NCAA competition for two decades. Students that had majored in Swahili at the University of North Carolina that were not student-athletes have the same degrees that student-athletes that did not actually attend classes possess.
What did the University of North Carolina receive in terms of a punishment from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)? Probation. For one year. Widespread, long-lasting, reputation destroying and downright insulting academic fraud results in one year of probation. This should generate outrage, not Laremy Tunsil receiving money.
Why was The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill continued in accreditation and placed on Probation? UNC-Chapel Hill was continued in accreditation and placed on Probation because the SACSCOC Board of Trustees determined that it had failed to demonstrate compliance with Principle 1.1 (Integrity), Comprehensive Standard 2.7.2 (Program content), Comprehensive Standard 3.2.11 (Control of intercollegiate athletics), Comprehensive Standard 3.4.9 (Academic support services), Comprehensive Standard 3.7.4 (Academic freedom), Comprehensive Standard 3.7.5 (Faculty role in governance), and Federal Requirement 4.7 (Title IV program responsibilities) of the Principles of Accreditation. The cited standards expect an accredited institution to provide evidence that it (1) operates with integrity in all matters, (2) has programs that embody a coherent course of study, (3) exercises appropriate administrative control over intercollegiate athletics, (4) provides appropriate academic support services for all students, (5) ensures that faculty understands the distinction between academic freedom and academic integrity, (6) ensures faculty understanding of responsibility for academic matters, and (7) complies with its program responsibilities under Title IV. – SACSCOC, June 18, 2015.
How does the SACSCOC explain the rationale to those affected? They cannot do so. Removing accreditation and allowing the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill the opportunity to reform and earn back their accreditation and restore their reputation would have been the right thing to do. Unfortunately, few have the courage to do the right thing in this world when money (grant money toward research) and influence are so powerful.
The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill were the real cheaters and needed to be held accountable. They cheated students, student-athletes, faculty and alumni. They got away with it because of their reputation, the University of Mississippi will not be as fortunate.