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Pat Forde Can’t Stop Talking About North Carolina’s Academic Scandal

Posted on Mar 19, 2015 by

Pat Forde is a columnist for Yahoo! Sports. He covers college athletics, and often he will write about the North Carolina Tar Heels, either in football or basketball.

Forde is capable of publishing fine work. Objectively speaking, I like some of his ideas. I enjoy the idea of a best case/worst case scenario for all 68 teams in the NCAA Tournament. It’s unique, it’s fun, and it’s an easy read to get through. His piece on Dean Smith’s influence on others, like anything about Coach Smith, is must-read. Pat Forde is capable of writing some quality stories, and has done so in the past.

Forde’s best talent recently, however, is throwing as much shade as humanly possible at the University of North Carolina.

I’m not sure when this trend started, but the first occurrence I could find (yes there are many, we’ll get to those) from his Yahoo! archive was one of the slew of pieces written by the national media in the wake of the Wainstein Report. It’s a standard “here’s what happened, shame on UNC” take, but Forde is still sure to let us know his solution to the problem in Chapel Hill.

“Now that UNC knows the independently reported facts, it can act. For years, its championship basketball teams were populated by players who benefitted from academic fraud – the 2005 national title team alone had 10 AFAM majors. If those titles were won with players who wouldn’t have been eligible without sham grades, take down the banners yourself. Take the hardware out of the trophy cases. Wear your shame.”

Yes, Forde joined the legions of banner-chasers on the Internet. Instead of pushing reform on the university, or even acknowledging the reforms put in place at, Forde takes the “tear banners down” approach. It’s not a progressive approach, and it takes the attention away from the broken system that needed to be (and is currently being) fixed.

Forde picked back up on North Carolina in November for his “25 Most Intriguing Players in College Basketball” piece. In that column, he listed Marcus Paige as his 4th most intriguing player. Was it because of his ability to heat up in the second half, shoot from deep, or his killer-instinct in late-game situations? Nah.

“And the brainiac junior also is tasked with being the erudite face of a program that has become a national laughingstock because of an 18-year academic scandal that undercut the school’s previously strong reputation.”

But wait; just a few weeks earlier, Forde had this to say about the “brainiac junior” on Twitter:

Yes, of all of the students Forde chose to pick on, he naturally chose the guy who would win the Skip Prosser Award, given to the ACC’s top scholar-athlete in men’s basketball. What’s more infuriating about the Tweet? I was in that exact same class, and I can confirm that it was one of the harder exams I’ve taken in college thus far. And like Paige, I also made the trip to Charlotte for ACC Media Day. Yes, it was possible to take an exam and make it to the Queen City for the majority of the day’s events. But, Forde chose to take the cheap shot at an undeserving Paige, and later apologized after a large chunk of followers (and even colleagues) corrected him for his ill-thought-out comment.

That wasn’t the only time Forde brought up the scandal, seemingly out of nowhere, in his season previews. In his “25 Most Intriguing Questions in College Basketball” column, his #3 choice was how Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim would handle their respective scandals throughout the season. Because, distractions.

That same week, Forde posted his “Forde-Yard Dash”, in which he named his Top 5 Dumpster Fires in College Football. Any guesses who made the cut? After (rightfully) citing everything awful about last year’s disastrous season, ranging from the Aloft incident he initially broke to the weekly defensive breakdowns, we got Peak Forde with his almost gleeful mention of the academic scandal:

“And it seems like there was one other embarrassing development that slips The Dash’s mind – oh yeah, the small matter of the 18-year academic scandal that enveloped more than 1,000 North Carolina athletes, including a ton of football players. Nice autumn in Chapel Hill.”

So, that gave us three mentions in the same week, all in columns not specifically devoted to North Carolina. A week later, Forde had this to say in his Forde-Yard Dash preview of rivalry week:

“Prestige meter: North Carolina is No. 30 in the U.S. News rankings. North Carolina State is No. 95. Though there is the minor issue of UNC’s accreditation being at risk.”

And then, after a 3 month hiatus from giving North Carolina that heat, the Tar Heels were used by Forde as an example of cheating paying off in college athletics:

“A report commissioned by North Carolina revealed, in devastating detail, systemic academic fraud within the school and conservatively estimated that more than 1,500 athletes were part of the scam over a period of 18 years. The NCAA re-opened its own investigation, which previously had led to no allegations. Basketball coach Roy Williams is in the Hall of Fame. Former football coach Butch Davis, fired in 2011 as part of the fall-out from the scandal, is an ESPN analyst.”

Never mind you that Roy Williams all but came out of that report clean (well, as clean as anyone could come out), he clearly earned his spot in the Hall of Fame thanks to pushing those kids through fake classes and cheating his way to the top at North Carolina… And Kansas? Where he built his reputation as a legendary head coach?

In his “Forde Minutes” basketball column, Forde mentioned that the Tar Heels would enter the ACC Tournament “laboring under the weight of an ongoing NCAA investigation.” He also brought this up in the same paragraph in which he mentioned Duke’s dismissal of Rasheed Sulaimon and Louisville’s dismissal of Chris Jones.

And then, in an article about which teams had the most to prove in their conference tournaments, Forde casually slides in an NCAA mention.

“Team that needs to prove something to its own fans: North Carolina. Tar Heels have lost 31 games the last three seasons, and their seven ACC losses are the most since the 2010 rebuilding year after the last national championship. Being swept by Duke and under NCAA investigation adds to the unrest. This hasn’t been a happy time at Carolina.”

Yes, the NCAA investigation has caused unrest in the Carolina fanbase. But does it have anything to do with what this team needs to “prove” on court? Considering the take Forde has on the scandal, shouldn’t what happens on the hardwood be the least of North Carolina’s concerns?

Forde did take a break from his NCAA name-dropping to question North Carolina’s heart in his recap of the ACC Tournament Final:

“Saturday night in the belly of the powder blue beast, the new Notre Dame dove and battled and clawed and snarled until lordly North Carolina stuck out its pouty lip and stopped competing, with the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament title on the line.”

North Carolina stopped competing. Okay. The Tar Heels fell behind by as much as 14, and still cut it to a two-possession game in the final minute. Could North Carolina have run out of gas? Sure. Did they make some careless mistakes during the Notre Dame run? Absolutely. But that game was never about heart, as much as Forde tries to make it fit his narrative about pouty lips and a powder blue beast.

It didn’t take Forde long to troll North Carolina fans about the scandal once more, though. This is from his NCAA Tournament best case/worst case column, published Tuesday:

Worst Case: After a withering, week-long blast of wisecracks about the ironic matchup of Harvard vs. AFAM U., Tar Heels no-show on the court the way their athletes did for years in the classroom. Brice Johnson is passive, Justin Jackson misses a bunch of 3-pointers, Ol’ Roy plays too many guys and Marcus Paige cannot carry his teammates past the Crimson. Ol’ Roy has a good cry, especially when Paige and Johnson go pro. Duke charges to its fifth national title, tying North Carolina’s total. Then the NCAA drops the hammer and Carolina’s national championship total is reduced.”

I understand that Forde’s article is mostly supposed to be “funny,” but sweet Jesus. The “ironic matchup of Harvard vs. AFAM U.,” despite, you know, the scandal that took place at Harvard three years ago. The NCAA dropping the hammer. Even if this is intended to be humorous, it’s lazy, and Forde could supply the world an unlimited supply of glue from how much he’s beaten this dead horse.

There’s one more article that I haven’t mentioned, and I saved it last because it’s the most infuriating of all. Forde wrote a piece about Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski declining to comment on the sexual assault allegations brought up against Rasheed Sulaimon. While that situation is far from a closed case, sexual assault in itself is one of, if not the, the hardest topics to speak about. It’s an ugly, violent, inhumane act, one that causes irreparable mental damage. The last sentence of this piece?

“The Chronicle story was the latest revelation to rock the ACC. Last week, dismissed Louisville guard Chris Jones was charged with rape and sodomy – he entered a not guilty plea to those charges Friday. Last month, Syracuse self-imposed a postseason ban on its basketball team for violations of NCAA rules. And North Carolina remains under NCAA investigation pertaining to widespread academic fraud.”

That is the very last sentence. It has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the column, and it portrays it as just another public dilemma that the conference has to deal with, even if that’s not anywhere near the intention of Forde here. They are completely different cases, and they just shouldn’t be mentioned in the same breath. The allegations against Rasheed Sulaimon have absolutely nothing to do with sports. No sexual assault allegations should have anything to do with sports. They are issues that concern real people, likely people who have been deeply hurt. And while I highly doubt Forde meant to lump the academic scandal with the Sulaimon case, it’s best not to run the risk of doing so, and deciding to eliminate that last paragraph entirely.

I’m not sure exactly where Pat Forde’s beef with North Carolina started. Maybe it was when the university began to tarnish the SANCTITY OF COLLEGE ATHLETICS with the paper class scandal. Maybe it was years ago, past what I could find on Forde’s archive. Maybe a Carolina fan was really mean to him as a child. I don’t know the origin, but I do know that it’s lazy, it’s old, and it’s time for him to find a new punching bag. Forde is a hot-take artist who seems to have a quota of “Carolina academic scandal” references to fill. He champions the importance of athletes getting into classes, but when said athletes miss precious time members of the media that can at times be self-righteous like Forde, he bullies them to an audience of hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers. It’s highly unlikely that this will stop anytime soon, and that’s unfortunate. While the university continues to put together reform programs to assure this never happens again in the future, Forde continues to revel in the sins of its past. It’s a sad reality, and the best response may be to simply stop reading, because we can rest assured that Forde likely won’t stop writing about it.

Photo courtesy of William Yeung (Flickr). All quotes are taken from articles posted by Pat Forde on Yahoo! Sports.

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