Sunday, February 14

Bethel's "Unverified" is a must see

Bradley Bethel's "Unverified" documents  another case of media sensationalism leading to innocent people being scapegoated -- while UNC puts political correctness and expediency above common decency.

Ray Blehar

The media soundbites and headlines said....."fraudulent paper classes"...."no show classes"...."no show classes for athletes"....."an iconic program gone bad"....and the "longest running cheating scandal in NCAA history"

What went on at the University of North Carolina (UNC)- Chapel Hill -- in terms of media sensationalism -- was on par with the inappropriately labeled, Penn State sex scandal.

And that is why Unverified is a must see for all Penn Staters.

Bradley Bethel, a former academic counselor at UNC, adeptly lays out how the media sensationalized a false story, resulting in a so-called independent investigation with a pre-determined outcome. In the end, innocent people were scapegoated so that the school could put the scandal behind them.

Sound familiar?  

At UNC, the administration came down hard on lowly academic counselors, firing those who were actually helping the athletes with their studies.  It also fired two other administrators, but certainly put no blame on those who created the problem.

No Show Classes
"No show classes," CBS's Scott Pelley sternly stated as he stared into the camera.

Yes, no show classes, Scott.  Welcome to the world of on-line education.  

On-line courses, while not requiring attendance at a "brick and mortar" building, do require considerable work.  PSU has a World Campus full of "no show classes" offering a variety of degrees.  Some of the classes are quite difficult.  There are Universities, such as the University of Phoenix, who specialize in "no show" classes (a.k.a, on-line learning).  

Most of the UNC athletes enrolled in the "no show" classes did required reading, took on-line quizzes, and wrote papers.  The UNC athletic counselors helped students, but didn't do work for them. 

However,  the media covering wasn't interested in finding out the facts...  

Ganim's reporting on the UNC and PSU cases were based on unreliable, biased sources.

...they had a source named Mary Willingham.  And as we saw in the Penn State case, it was a source whose story was too good to check.


A January 2014 CNN report by Ganim relied extensively on Mary Willingham's  "research" which allegedly found 183 athletes reading between the 4th and 8th grade level.   Willingham, adding fuel to the fire, claimed she turned a blind eye to cheating and NCAA violations.

But, Willingham's study was not peer reviewed.  

Her allegations of cheating and NCAA violations were unchecked.

In a word, Willingham's work was UNVERIFIED.

Ganim and the rest of the media didn't let facts stand in the way of a good story.

McDonald's and Swahili

The stories -- and that's what they mostly were -- of student athletes abusing the system were sensationalized.

As one UNC professor put it, "it was not a time for compassion."

ESPN painted Deaunte Williams as a "fast food worker" who was exploited by North Carolina's paper class curriculum when the real story was he took out a loan and built his own restaurant and employs people.  

He is, to quote, "a job giver" and "not a poor black kid who works at McDonald's."

Amazingly, just one year earlier, ESPN did a feature on Williams, that showed he was a successful entrepreneur, homeowner, and volunteer football coach.

Joe Nocera of the New York Times wrote, Football and Swahili, in which he took shots at the idea that football players were taking Swahili.  In the article, he misquoted Williams, alleging that the former football player said 100% of freshman football players took Swahili.

Williams actually took Portuguese -- and flat out said he was misquoted.  

Nocera wouldn't entertain a discussion the misquote. 

Similary, Bernard Goldberg, looked down his nose at a former UNC athlete who took Swahili, asking him how often he used it.  The athlete responded never, to which Goldberg reacted with disgust.

Of course, no one cared about "the other side" of the story.

When the African American (AFAM) curriculum was developed the proponents of it believed native African languages should be used rather than other foreign languages, like Spanish or French. It made sense then and it makes sense now.  That was the reason why football players enrolled in AFAM were taking Swahili.

But it's too much to expect the media to figure it out.  

And that's another reason why Bradley Bethel's Unverified is a must see.

Political Correctness Run Amok

Imagine the blow back from the politically correct  if UNC eliminated Swahili because it's not particularly useful to know.

That gets us to the bottom of the so-called UNC Cheating Scandal.

Former Governor Jim Martin investigated the UNC paper classes back in 2012 and correctly found that the problem was a lack of oversight of the AFAM department by the academic side of the school.  Many of the classes were "aberrant" or "irregularly taught" from 2007 to 2011.

"The athletic department, coaches and players did not create this," Martin told the board of trustees. "It was not in their jurisdiction, it was the academic side."

Chancellor James Moeser said that UNC felt that they were helping minority students who were not quite as adept academically to get through their studies and graduate.

When the media began fanning the flames about a cheating scandal in 2013,  the administrators claimed no knowledge of what was happening in AFAM and pulled out the "corporate crisis playbook."

Wainstein Report

UNC hired a high profile lawyer, Kenneth Wainstein, to perform an independent investigation.
Wainstein Report's had a pre-determined outcome that would begin the public cleansing.

Much like the Freeh Report, Wainstein's Report would form the basis for the public cleansing.  There would be a few sacrificial lambs -- academic counselors Beth Bridger and Jaimie Lee, among others --  but those who caused the problem were not be held accountable.

It was a big time athletics problem. Everyone knew it. 

The media didn't need to read the Wainstein Report -- they wrote it.

Fired coach Butch Davis quite aptly summed up the Wainstein Report:  "tie it up and put a bow on it, blame him, kick football to the curb and move on."    

Sound familiar?

A Voice of Reason

Once again, ESPN's Jay Bilas was a voice of reason.  He properly assessed the problem was academics, not athletics.   He pointed out  that no coach can establish a class and a coach assumes if a class is offered, it's legitimate.  

If this went on for 20 years -- and the majority taking classes were not athletes --  then where were the checks and balances on the academic side?

Should athletics role to be to question the academics of an institution?  

Cue Joe Paterno, circa 1983!

Truth, Healing, and Hope

Bethel finally got a chance to interview one of the high ranking adminstrators, Chancellor James Moeser.

Moeser admitted that a "case can be made" that media pressure caused the University not to exercise "appropriate due process" and "rush to judgment."

Individuals were "harshly judged without all the evidence, without due process."

Those admissions of truth that can bring about the healing needed when a false narrative rips away at the fabric of an institution.

John Blanchard, UNC's senior associate athletic director, fired in the scandal's wake provides an uplifting -- and somewhat familiar message -- near the end of Bethel's film. 

"Don't drop out of the story and be bitter and resentful.  Keep going.  Enjoy life.  Remember the best days are ahead when we will be able to help others."  

But it was Blanchard's other message that resonated most with me.

"Have faith in the end of the story, even if you don't know what that story is going to be."

The film is a must see...and Bethel hopes to bring Unverified to State College.


  1. There is so much wrong in this article, I'm not sure where to begin. You accuse Ganim of not doing any research yet this article proves you haven't done any either.

    Bradley Bethel (who no longer works for UNC) is only presenting information that the UNC PR machine wants publicized. For example, the 3 people chosen to verify Willingham's work and couldn't also stated the reason they couldn't is because UNC didn't give them all of the data to work with. Her work has since been verified by other studies.

    There is so much more info that Weinstein provided that isn't included in his official report and even more info exposed in some of the email dumps lately. You should take some more time and further educate yourself before writing an article like this, it doesn't make you look good.

    1. Z,
      Thanks for your comment.

      You don't have to tell me that there is so much more info that Wainstein didn't put in his report. It's called - THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STORY.

      And the legitimate evidence in Wainstein's report confirms exactly as I've written above. Go to pages 34 and 35 of the Wainstein and take a look at the charts. Wainstein did exactly what Louis Freeh did at PSU -- he cherry picked information and created a nonsensical narrative in which a Department Head was somehow swayed into keeping paper classes going by the almighty UNC athletic program.

      Sorry, but the evidence doesn't support that at all.

      As for Willingham, shouldn't her work have been peer reviewed before she released it? That's a rehetorical question.

      The UNC PR machine isn't behind Bethel....the UNC PR machine was behind vilifying athletics.

      Anyway, you are entitled to your own opinions - but you're not entitled to your own facts.

  2. Thanks for this Ray. So what I take away here is, what has been done to PSU with falsehoods presented by the supposedly legitimate media, is also being done to other universities. And there are other "Freehs" ,as in Kenneth Wainstein, apparently working in tandem with corrupted mainstream media to create a false crisis in college athletics. And in creating this false crisis, they are scapegoating innocent people and destroying their lives. And of course this begs the question, why? And the answer seems clear enough. It's a money-maker for the NCAA and all that are involved in creating the false crises. Where's the federal government in all of this? Seems to me to be a blatant racket prosecutable under the RICO act. And it appears that both Louis Freeh and Sara Ganim are major players.

    Sara Ganim seems to be the ubiquitous media figure as these manufactured crises evolve. Which begs the question, within who's pocket is Ganim residing? CNN, NCAA? She appears to be a tool, but who's tool? The Pulitzer Prize given to her was quite obviously a manufactured stepping stone to put her in a higher place. Now that she's in that "higher place", it's easy to see why she was put there. But is she a witting or unwitting tool? This is a very important question when one considers her fate as this racket is exposed.

    Ray, any thoughts on how Rolling Stone's fake UVA rape crises story ties in to the media-manufactured college sports crises? Is it another racket to create a "need" for corporate intervention into a non-existent problem?

    1. Truthseeker,
      Thanks for your comments. I'll do my best to answer each point.

      At some point, I would hope the Federals will start looking at people like Louis Freeh, Kenneth Wainstein, and former Senator Mitchell who are swooping in to these faux crises and acting as if they are providing some service, when in fact, they are being paid for providing PR (and little else).

      Ganim, in my opinion, is unwitting to what is going on around her and is being used. If things went "south" during the Sandusky case and the leaks were shown to be from Fina to Ganim, the Patriot News would have thrown her under the bus. She wasn't the lead reporter on the UNC case, but apparently because the world was fooled by her Pulitzer, she added credibility to the Raleigh News Observer's stories. Talk about irony.

      The UVa case is interesting because Rolling Stone isn't a mainstream media outlet, thus the mainstream Washington Post's media blogger started digging into the story and fact checking it. Had the UVa story been broken by traditional media, I don't think anyone would have questioned it (see PSU, UNC, Duke, etc).

      However, even after the UVa story was debunked, the narrative of a rape epidemic/sexual assault epidemic on college campuses continued on with gusto.

      The NCAA is part of the racket, of course. The NCAA got it right the first time, when it agreed with Jim Martin's investigation of an academic, not athletic, scandal. However, as the media started banging the drum, the NCAA decided to relook at the UNC case, then changed it's mind.

    2. Truth,

      It's more than just a money maker for the NCAA, it keeps them relevant and necessary. With conferences gaining more autonomy (boosted by the advent of conference-specific TV networks) there has been a lot of talk of disbanding the NCAA and having each conference act as its own governing body. The more scandals the NCAA has to investigate, the harder it is for the conferences to justify going it on their own.

  3. As deep throat stated during the Watergate investigation, follow the money. PSU has paid over $100 million dollars to whom? Universities offer deep pockets.

    1. I think you're right about the money but not just the Sandusky scandal money. That mostly went to victims, lawyers and PR.

      The trustees have been using millions in PSU money to keep their mistakes/conspiracy with Freeh hidden.

      Too many trustees are there to advance their own self interests rather than those of PSU. Trustee Dave Joyner stepped from the Board into the AD position without any experience in such a job.

      Cynthia Baldwin used her influence as former Board Chairman to get the General Counsel job, without any experience in such a position. Baldwin was a disaster in that job. One reporter estimated that Baldwin's stint as General Counsel netted her $30K more per year in her state retirement.

      If Trustees want to take top positions at PSU, they should work for free.

    2. Elroy,
      The interesting thing about the money is that PSU has paid out a lot of money, but very little of it actually comes out of PSU's pocket. It is mostly paid by their insurance company under Director's and Officer's liability.

      Just a rough outline here, but this estimate shows that PSU has paid about $43M of pocket.

      1. Freeh (Public Relations) $8.5 M
      2. Edelman & LaTorre, other PR $10 M
      3. Trustee,NCAA, McQueary, etc legal fees $15M
      4. DLA Piper (for George Mitchell's PR) $3M
      5. Miscellaneous services $5M

      What they didn't pay or won't end up paying - approx $160 M:

      1. Victim settlements (will get $$ from TSM's insurer) - $90M
      2. NCAA fines (picked up by PSU athletics revenues) -$60M
      3. Curley, Schultz, & Spanier legal fees - $10M

      Of course, the numbers will keep climbing as long as PSU keeps fighting to keep the truth from being known.

  4. Ray - What was the limit of TSM insurance coverage for child abuse by an employee?

    Has PSU pursued the TSM insurer yet?

    I would be surprised if the TSM insurer paid PSU tens of millions without a court fight. PSU might even be scared off from another court battle for fear of more bad publicity.

    I thought PSU's insurer refused to pay for victim settlements.

    I'd put the $60 million for the NCAA lawsuit settlement in the first category because it's still PSU money, even if it is football revenue. I expect the athletics dept. will be tightening their budget significantly until that $60 million, plus interest, is paid off.

    Even if legal fees for CSS are covered, it still will cost PSU in higher insurance premiums.

    1. Tim,
      I don't have information on TSM's limits, but at least one victim has already filed a claim against their insurer. I would agree that TSM's insurer probably would fight TSM's claims given that TSM has not paid out anything in settlements.

      I don't count the $60M NCAA fine against PSU because it really isn't being paid from University funds. It is coming from football revenue and then PSU is EARNING INTEREST on the money. If you really want to put it in the loss column, then its about $15M after interest.

      D&O insurance premiums are so insignificant that they are not even mentioned in Penn State's financial statements -- not even in the notes. However, the payouts are mentioned.

    2. I thought all the lawsuits except the 1988 football camp plaintiff were settled by PSU.

      PSU would have a hard time in a lawsuit against TSM because TSM could use the charges against CSS, Freeh Report, and comments and actions of PSU Trustees to defend themselves.

      PSU put the blame on Paterno by firing him and on CSS by ending their employment in other ways.

      Even if the alumni trustees got others to join them in a majority to sue TSM, I think that ship has sailed.

      I would count the $60 million because it's PSU revenue, even if it comes from football. The interest on the $60 million is just a bookkeeping trick. PSU is still out $60 million, and the athletic dept. budget is out even more because they are paying PSU interest on the $60 million.

    3. Tim,
      $42 million in interest is not a book keeping trick. Part of PSU's budget is the Institutional Support Fund and interest off loans to various departments of the University are adds to that fund's coffers. Erickson referred to it as a rainy day fund.

      So, you are very wrong to say that PSU is out $60 million. It is correct to say the football program is out $60 million + interest.

    4. The football program is part of PSU so it's all PSU money. The $60 million is $60 million less for PSU because it left the campus.

      I don't know how PSU football profits have been spent other than they give major support to non-revenue sports. I once heard football profits also funded the student intramural program. Athletic facilities are also used by students, faculty and staff for recreation and teaching so football money benefits the entire university indirectly.

      PSU can spent the football profits as they see fit. It's not like the AD or football coach gets to decide how all that money is spent.

  5. Let's not forget Duke Lacrosse and McMartin preschool trial.