The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill football program seems like the Titanic. Following their basketball scandal, the football team is now in trouble. Up to a dozen North Carolina football players could face disciplinary action for selling university-issued shoes and athletic gear, fueling the argument college athletes should be compensated. North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the infractions were self-reported earlier in the year.
“When we became aware of a situation within the football program, we self-reported what the NCAA deemed to be a secondary violation,” Cunningham said. “I worked closely with Chancellor [Carol] Folt and Coach [Larry] Fedora to address this issue from an NCAA, University and Department of Athletics perspective, and we have taken appropriate disciplinary action.”
Depending on the NCAA’s investigation Players involved could be suspended for one or more games each. What appeared to be UNC entering the higher ranks of college football and four consecutive bowl appearances proved premature, as the Tar Heels struggled last year with a 3-9 record. That marked their worst performance since posting the same 3-9 record in 2006.
This comes as North Carolina coach Larry Fedora suggested during ACC Media Day college football is under attack due to sports medicine’s focus on head injuries, specifically chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). Additionally, he equated the nation’s aversion to football in the wake of the NFL’s kneeling controversy to the country “going downhill.”
“There will be decline of our country, there’s no doubt,” Fedora said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. I think because the lessons you learn in the game of football relate to everything that’s going to happen in the rest of your life, and if we stop learning those lessons we’re going to struggle and I think in some ways we’re struggling more now than we ever have. Are we ever going to be a perfect country? No, not by any means but I do think the game of football has had a major impact on who we are as a country.”
There’s no doubt football is an important part of American culture as it’s the most popular sport in the country. It’s provided opportunities for thousands of people to make millions of dollars. Advances in CTE treatment and research will help millions of people, not just football players.
Football is a violent game and for the majority of the sport’s inception, head trauma was not taken seriously. But CTE is real, the links between repeated concussions and long-term brain damage are proven. Larry Fedora’s comments could damage a program that’s taken a significant step backwards from scandal. To deny any of this, as Fedora has, means he has no respect for the science of CTE. These missteps could signal the end of the Fedora era if he’s not careful. Especially in the Atlantic Coast Conference as it’s now become one of the premier college football conferences in the country. Fedora might want to ask UNC basketball coach Roy Williams how he survived dishonor.