Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Attaboy" and a slap on the back for Dan Kane


Back in May, I wrote a story titled “Citizen Kane” which ran on a Raleigh website for creative writers. Basically, I said the readership of The News & Observer day-by-day was less and less interested in the writings of reporter Dan Kane who has been pounding on the “administration/academic/athletics scandal” at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for several years. The parting paragraph of that story I wrote in May was: The newspaper seems to be growing old by its own pen. You can only yell but so many times that all is rotten in the state of UNC and expect to keep your readership interested.

Well, excuse me, but, just recently, Kane’s persistence surely had to cause a jump in circulation. I have no facts to back up that thought, but, with the findings of the recently released Wainstein Report that found misdeeds involving administration, academics and athletics at UNC for at least 18 years, Kane’s effort must be praised, or at the very least he should receive an attaboy and a slap on the back. His persistence paid off. He followed a smoking gun and found fire, a blaze that will take years to put out. The only thing Kane couldn’t do is to get the culprits to fess-up about their wrong-doing and that’s because he had no way of prosecuting his way to the truth.

It’s been a long, drawn out effort by Kane and several fellow staff writers at the N&O that could result in an award for investigative journalism. (The N&O calls then the "I-team.")He’s still not appreciated by Tar Heels around the world, but the students majoring in journalism at UNC-CH and those teaching that curriculum should be impressed with his effort, but maybe not the subject thereof.

So, where does the story go from here? Is it over? My guess is that it’s far from over. Kane’s digging and reporting could go on as long as his boss desires. And here’s part of the reason why. There are indications Deborah Crowder, a central figure in the academic scam, used her enthusiasm for men’s basketball and her influence on campus to help basketball players scam classes at UNC since 1982. Her friend Burgess McSwain was the UNC men’s basketball academic advisor since the mid-1960s. The honorable and legendary Dean Smith was head basketball coach. He retired from the job after the 1996-97 season, a year after the reported and admitted starting date of the mischievous activities. So from about 1982 until 1997, there was a straight line that included Smith, McSwain and Crowder. In 1997, what had been informal became formal, at least according  to the Wainstein Report.

Some officials, pundits, observers and fans, especially the non-light blue-type fans, believe Smith had to know what was going on in the way of easy grading before and after the 1997 benchmark. Smith has pretty much always been an outspoken critic of those who judged of his players by a SAT score. Smith said many times that the SAT is not indicative of the ability of the student to achieve academically. Really?!?! Maybe if Chris Washburn, the 1984-86 Wolfpack basketball player with a SAT of below 500 who then Chancellor Bruce Poulton personally approved for admission to NC State University in 1984, had gone to UNC-CH…maybe Washburn would have graduated with honors. Smith’s program had a “system” that it followed to success. Did that include preferential academic treatment for his players? Kane should ask that question.

What about John Swofford, current commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference? He was the UNC Athletics Director 1980-97, leaving the same year Smith retired. What did Swofford know and when did he know it? He left UNC for the greener pastures of the ACC and escaped the crime committed by Crowder and others. Kane should call Swofford at least to get a denial and no-comment.

Is there more to the story? Yes, and there’s no way that Dan Kane will put down his pen, quit making calls, and stop writing about the UNC Scandal. It is doubtful Kane will move on to some other subject. My guess is he’s still on the case and will follow it through the NCAA’s review of the enlightening and damaging (to UNC-CH) Wainstein Report.  Good for Kane and good The N&O. For all the criticism of Kane I’ve dished out over the last few years, I’m here to withdraw it all. Congratulations, Dan. You were (and are) just doing your job. Attaboy!