UNC junior guard PJ Hairston’s recent decision to take a series of immersive extension classes through the Carolina law school this summer has given occasion for Sports on Earth’s Tommy Tomlinson to connect the UNC football team’s recent and ongoing academic scandal with this ostensibly basketball-only issue to worry about the overall state of The Carolina Way. But did The Carolina Way ever even apply to the UNC football team? Tomlinson writes,
In short, it turns out The Carolina Way has not been all that different from The Florida Way or The Oklahoma Way or — yeah, name pretty much any power in college sports.
Let’s get this out of the way right at the top: comparing Carolina football to Florida or Oklahoma football is utterly insane, perceived cheating prowess or no. If Tomlinson is meaning to imply that Florida and Oklahoma cheat and that the cheating results in winning and that to win one must cheat, then why is Carolina’s cheating football team still so bad? Because the articles about Carolina’s fake classes always claims the problem was “going back as far as the 90s” let’s look at some outcomes since 1990. Here are Florida and Oklahoma’s winning percentages:
And here is Carolina:
If Carolina football is crybanging the “win at all costs” hooker at the expense of The Carolina Way (Just like Florida! Just like Oklahoma!) then why is their football team so, um, average? In fact, look at the winning percentages for the entire ACC over this same time period:
|Florida State Average||0.772|
|Virginia Tech Average||0.706|
|Georgia Tech Average||0.587|
|NC State Average||0.550|
|Wake Forest Average||0.408|
That is some absolute mediocrity– .005 above NC State and .007 below the ACC average, holding strong for the eighth playoff spot. This is what Carolina football got for throwing its lot in with those unscrupulous Floridas and Oklahomas? Get real. Carolina football is terrible, both at football and at cheating at football. They have always been terrible and, save for two seasons in the late 90s right at the end of the Mack Brown era, will continue to be terrible. Well, maybe terrible is overselling it a little; look at Duke. Even Wake wins almost twice as much as Duke.
The point is, while this is definitely a rough time for Carolina fans, there is no comparing the football and basketball programs. Since 1990, Carolina men’s basketball is sitting at .738. That looks a lot more like the Floridas and Oklahomas of the world. For a variety of reasons, among them coaching leadership, recruiting advantages, historical precedent, Carolina is a great basketball school and an average football school. I think everyone is pretty much on the same page with this one, celebrations of Music City Bowl wins over 6-7 Tennessee teams notwithstanding. The Carolina Way is something created by the men’s basketball program, by Dean Smith, and something that applies to the men’s basketball program. You don’t get to have a particular capitalized Way of doing things unless you win first. (Unless you’re Duke, whom I think should be granted a Way for their ability to consistently lose football games.) The Carolina Football Way leads to winning almost exactly as many games as you lose– which is by definition not a Way, much less The Carolina Way. I agree that the football program would be well served to emulate the basketball program, especially because their own attempts at success have been so pathetically inept, as well as damaging to the reputation of the university. But you can’t connect Hairston’s wet hot American summer with the colossal unraveling of Carolina’s abundantly mediocre football program through any means other than proximity.
That this statement might not remain true is Carolina fans’ core fear. Tomlinson nails this at the end of his post,
Through all of this, the one thing UNC fans could lean on was that most of the troubles involved football. They wouldn’t mind a good football team, but their hearts belong to basketball. And so P.J. Hairston’s highway adventures cut doubly deep. They threaten both the UNC basketball season and The Carolina Way.
If Carolina football proves to be the university’s deadbeat Prodigal Son, blarching its failure and compromise all over the university’s academic reputation first, and then the basketball program, the Tar Heel state may elect Republican state legislatures until the entire UNC university system is defunded and reading and writing have been banned. Then I guess we’ll have to content ourselves with The Patriot Way and start figuring out how to release the our hitmen right after their production has peaked.