North Carolina coach Larry Fedora got one thing right about his decision to bizarrely make Tim Beckman a volunteer coach despite how he mistreated players in the past. Fedora correctly predicted Beckman would be out of the news a couple days later; it’s just not how Fedora arrogantly expected the story to disappear.
Now, there are serious questions about the judgment of Fedora and North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham over a situation that North Carolina, of all schools, should have avoided in the first place.
This is a university that’s arguing the worst academic fraud case in college sports history isn’t subject to NCAA jurisdiction. This is a university that recently settled for $795,000 with a former walk-on wide receiver who claimed he was injured in a 2014 hazing incident. Yet Fedora and Cunningham still decided to throw a bone to Beckman, and in the process, essentially endorsed how he coached without ever telling North Carolina’s chancellor that he was on campus. The arrogance is mind-boggling.
For those readers who asked me on Twitter why not allow a second chance and blamed the media for running Beckman out of Chapel Hill, I would ask if you have read the Illinois report. Here it is. It’s damning.
A law firm commissioned by Illinois made all kinds of despicable findings – from interfering with medical staff, verbal abuse, ignoring injuries to following concussion protocol — that could be summed up by this statement in the report: “The line between aggressive coaching and inappropriate influence regarding medical decisions may be difficult to define precisely, but it was clearly and systematically crossed under Coach Beckman’s leadership.” Sorry, I wouldn’t want Beckman associated with my team.
Beckman denied he mistreated players. But if nothing happened, why did Beckman settle for $250,000 with Illinois instead of pursuing the $3.1 million left on his contract or the $743,000 that his contract called for if he got bought out? Why did a former Toldeo player sue Beckman in 2013 for negligence and violation of the state’s hazing law? Is there some conspiratorial reason why ex-Beckman players want to take down their coach and an outside law firm hired by Illinois agreed to the plan?
Look, no one was interested in spending another late August revisiting Beckman’s coaching style. Yet, not only did Fedora say he was “very comfortable” with Beckman after the apparent blessing of Cunningham, Fedora basically blew off every finding Illinois made about Beckman.
When asked by reporters this week if he understands the criticism of bringing in Beckman, Fedora replied, “I can. And I know it’s going to happen, and then a couple of days from now it won’t be news. I mean, I promise you, I didn’t see anywhere where the NCAA said that he should be banished from the game of football, you know? I mean, the guy didn’t win enough games. That’s all it was.”
No, Larry. That’s not all it was. And we wonder why some football players tried unsuccessfully to form a union.
Would Beckman have survived if he won more? Quite possibly. That says more about the insatiable desire to win in college football than Beckman, who according to the Illinois report, even told players he doesn’t believe in hamstring injuries.
I suspect a photo tweeted Thursday by Raleigh News & Observer columnist Luke DeCock ultimately ended Beckman’s stay in Carolina blue. The picture showed Beckman coaching a North Carolina player. In other words, it showed the exact thingNCAA rules prohibit a volunteer football coach from doing, and the exact opposite of Fedora’s claim that Beckman wouldn’t interact with players.
“When I first learned yesterday that coach Larry Fedora had invited former Illinois coach Tim Beckman to serve as a volunteer with the football program, I was surprised and disappointed,” North Carolina Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement. “The decision for Mr. Beckman to withdraw from his volunteer position was the right thing to do, and moving forward, I don’t expect this situation to recur. I continue to put a great deal of trust in Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham and coach Fedora to educate and develop our student-athletes and to ensure we meet the high standards we expect at Carolina.”
“Coach Fedora’s interest was in helping a coaching colleague get back on his feet,” Cunningham said in a statement. “We will learn from this and continue preparing for the season.” (My request to speak with Cunningham about Beckman was not granted by North Carolina.)
Since the academic fraud scandal surfaced years ago, North Carolina has trumpeted its reform efforts for better oversight of athletics. If the chancellor only learned Wednesday she has a coach on campus previously fired for mistreating players, how are those reform efforts going? The lesson to learn from Beckman’s time in Carolina blue seems pretty clear: Be careful what you believe coming out of Chapel Hill.
And now for this week’s college football mailbag questions …
Who’s the most overrated team in the Associated Press preseason poll?
— John C.
Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of preseason polls. I think they’re silly since so many of us making these predictions have virtually no knowledge of what’s really happening behind the scenes. The actual games will tell us answers.
Having said that, my guess is No. 10 Notre Dame and/or No. 9 Tennessee could be top-10 disappointments. As I wrote this week, 36 percent of the preseason top-10 teams since 2007 finished with at least four losses. So someone will flop.
Notre Dame concerns me because of its recent player arrests and the unsettled quarterback situation. Brian Kelly said both Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer will play against Texas, something neither quarterback is thrilled about. Zaire/Kizer could be Cardale Jones/J.T. Barrett all over again. Even when you have two good quarterbacks, if you haven’t picked one or found differentiating roles for two, you’re asking for chemistry problems.
Tennessee may win the SEC East and absolutely live up to the hype. But I don’t understand a top-10 ranking for a perennially underachieving program that hasn’t had a player drafted by the NFL in the past two years.
Let’s not forget who the Vols beat to win nine games in 2015: Bowling Green, Western Carolina, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Texas, Missouri, Vanderbilt and Northwestern. I’ll believe the Vols when I see it.
Where would a 4-0 Ole Miss be ranked? Could the Rebels leapfrog the Oklahoma/Ohio State winner?
Really high and yes. Under John’s 4-0 scenario — and I’m not buying it — the Rebels would have wins over preseason No. 1 Alabama, No. 4 Florida State and No. 18 Georgia. Ole Miss should be No. 1 if that happened. Only Oklahoma has a tougher start to 2016 than Ole Miss. But the Sooners will have “only” played Houston and Ohio State by the time the Rebels are hypothetically 4-0.
Perhaps the more relevant question by Week 4: Will Ole Miss have enough losses to self-impose a 2016 postseason ban? The latest report by Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports is NCAA investigators have interviewed players at two or more rival SEC schools. The report said the players received immunity from NCAA sanctions in exchange for truthful accounts of their recruitment by Ole Miss. That suggests, though it doesn’t explicitly say, the NCAA has specific questions for specific SEC players. This likely won’t end well for the Rebels as the NCAA keeps sniffing.
How does everyone at CBS have Arkansas ahead of Mississippi State? Dan Mullen has won four in a row and has better five-year recruiting, too. Baffling.
Fair question. Losing Dak Prescott is certainly a big part of the equation. But I think there’s a default mechanism to pick Mississippi State last in the SEC West because people doubt solid success can last in Starkville.
The truth is Mississippi State has not finished last in the SEC West since 2009, which was Mullen’s first year. Since then, Ole Miss, Auburn and Arkansas have each finished last twice. Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M and, yes, Mississippi State, are the only schools to avoid the SEC West basement over that period. Some more love for Mississippi State is probably justified.
I loved “Last Chance U.” What’s the best football movie you’ve seen?
As I wrote this week, “Last Chance U” is the most realistic movie/TV show I’ve seen on the football culture. “Friday Night Lights” is outstanding as a book, movie or TV series. It’s the trifecta that amazingly didn’t go wrong in any genre after the book was so good.
I prefer realistic football movies (sorry, “Rudy”) so let me offer another new, under-the-radar film: “The Business of Amateurs.” It’s a well-done documentary by Bob DeMars, a USC defensive lineman from 1997-2001, about how the NCAA chews up thousands of college football players. Poignantly, DeMars discusses his own anxiety issues and the troubled road former teammate Scott Ross took before he died.
“The problem is bigger than we realize since most athletes are too prideful to admit this weakness,” DeMars said. “I decided to be vocal because I want guys that are suffering to know that they’re not alone.”
The film is intended mainly for athletes, but anyone can appreciate it. Screenings were shown at Oregon State and Drexel, and Arizona State has licensed the film, according to DeMars. The director said Oregon State’s football players were scheduled to watch the film through the athletic department, but the coaching staff issued a mandatory team activity that night instead. Three other former college athletes worked on the film: Princeton baseball player Christian Staehely, Oregon State football player Steven Christian and Minnesota wrestler Joel Bauman, who once lost his NCAA eligibility over a song he made.
“The Business of Amateurs” was released Friday on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Playstation and other download platforms. Here’s the animated music video for the movie.
How can Wisconsin be overrated when the Badgers are unranked and have been written off by everyone due to their schedule?
I got several questions like these by Badgers fans because I labeled their team the most overrated in the Big Ten. The truth is we had to pick someone, I thought most Big Ten teams seemed to be picked about right, and I saw Wisconsin projected in a couple places to finish second in the West. Again, preseason predictions are silly. Get worked up by them at your own peril.
Would a guy from Maryland know anything about football?
I feel like there’s a condescending, subliminal message buried somewhere in this question.
Source: CBS Sports / College football mailbag: Understanding UNC’s arrogance with Tim Beckman