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Free Advice To Schools: Don’t Ask For Outside Reviews On Scandals

As the academic/athletic scandal at North Carolina continues to get worse and worse — and it’s getting worse and worse — a special faculty committee at UNC is now “calling for an independent commission of outside experts” to review the athletics and academics at the school.

Carolina officials, are you NUTS?  If the Penn State scenario has shown us anything it’s that no school should hire an outside party to file a summary report regarding an on-campus scandal ever again.  Ever.  Are you listening, SEC administrators?

Penn State hired a team led by former FBI man Louis Freeh to look into the school’s Jerry Sandusky scandal and then put everything into writing.  Freeh’s team did as instructed.  They researched and read emails.  They drew conclusions and included opinions.  They speculated on some points.  They provided circumstantial evidence on others.

They did not provide a law enforcement investigation into the matter.  Heck, they didn’t even interview a single Penn State coach.

Who says?  On Friday The Chronicle of Higher Eduction cited “a source familiar with the investigation” whom it called “a member of the team” that produced the Freeh report as saying the NCAA was way, way out of bounds in taking that document and using it to batter Penn State:


“That document was not meant to be used as the sole piece, or the large piece, of the NCAA’s decision making.  It was meant to be a mechanism to help Penn State move forward.  To be used otherwise creates an obstacle to the institution changing…

In using this report largely as the basis for their decision, the NCAA could hurt Penn State’s enrollment, recruiting, and outside relationships and partnerships.  If you don’t attract good faculty and research dollars, your institution has no stature…

The report is critical, but nothing is black and white.  No investigation can totally answer all the questions everyone has…

The NCAA took this report and ran with it without further exploration.  If you really wanted to show there was a nexus to cover up, interview the coaches.  See their knowledge and culpability and how far this went…

The sanctions against Penn State were really overwhelming, and no one imagined the report being used to do that.  People thought it would help others draw conclusions about what happened and provide a guide for leaders to be able to identify minefields and navigate through them.

Instead, Emmert took the report and used Penn State’s own resources to do them in.  The institution is made of people, too.  And they don’t deserve this.”


Last week, someone reading this site suggested that my assertion that the Freeh Report not be taken as gospel was “basically akin to Holocaust denial.”  No.  Really.  Holocaust denial.  See?














Well, now none other than someone either on or close to the Freeh group has said that, indeed, it was just one view of events, it was not a full exploration into what Joe Paterno and other coaches knew, and it should not have been taken by the NCAA and used as a de facto investigation.

The lesson in all of this is that no school — again, are you listening, SEC administrators? — should ever hire anyone from outside that school to put anything in writing that the NCAA could grab and use in place it own investigation.  Because the NCAA has now proven it will do just that.  And according to several PSU sources, the NCAA told the school to accept the penalties that were based upon the Freeh Report or get the death penalty.  Mark Emmert denies making that ultimatum, but if you’re North Carolina or any other school would you really want to find out if the NCAA prez would or wouldn’t make such either/or threats?  I think not.

So the quick and easy, sure-thing takeaway of this matter is — whatever you do — do not ask someone else to provide a written summary of what they think went on inside your own school.  To do so is just asking for trouble.  Just ask Penn State officials today.  Or someone close to the Freeh group for that matter.

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