Read Part I:
Questioning The Wainstein Report
“We are not trying to get into every claim,” said Joel Curran, UNC’s Vice Chancellor of Communications and Public Affairs. “We’re just not going to do it. I can’t sit there and try to pick apart every finding, every e-mail, every conversation. We don’t have the time or the interest to do it. We’re really focused on the overall findings, what they represent, and how we can apply those to what we’re trying to do here at Carolina with the reforms.”
A source familiar with the thinking of the Board of Trustees said that “no one believes we have to investigate further.” Instead, the priority is on working with the NCAA and SACS and providing all the information those groups need while still making sure “you’re protecting your turf appropriately.”
The source compared it to working with the IRS: “We want to cooperate with them. We also want to see it land in a place that’s as favorable as it can be for the university.”
UNC’s public relations strategy is shaped by Curran, an alumnus who was hired last November as the school’s first senior-level administrator in charge of communications. UNC is also paying $137,000 a month to Edelman, which calls itself the world’s largest public relations firm and began working with the school in May.
Segments of the fan base feel that UNC hasn’t done enough to defend itself from criticism. Athletic director Bubba Cunningham said the school does try to reach out to individuals behind the scenes and correct facts that have been stated or reported incorrectly.
“Each and every time,” Cunningham said. “In fact, I even tried to do that at halftime of one of our games. I didn’t try, I did. Now, does that change it? Don’t know. Maybe they don’t make another comment or maybe they say something differently, but I also think that time and information will help. I think when the report first comes out, there’s a lot of shock and awe and I think over time, people are able to digest the report and look at it and get a better perspective on when it occurred, how it occurred, over what period of time it occurred and what impact that had. Now, that doesn’t change what happened, but I do think time allows people to think more clearly, more logically and then I think make more rational decisions in debate and fewer emotional decisions in debate.”
Still, the university’s approach of fighting behind the scenes isn’t satisfying everyone.
“If (UNC) told everybody that works there, ‘Just keep your mouth shut,’ the only thing the public hears is what the N&O writes,” said Joe Holladay, who was a member of UNC's basketball coaching staff from 2003-2013. “I’d like for somebody to fight back. There’s another side to all this.”
One of Wainstein’s findings was that Wayne Walden, the academic counselor for men’s basketball from 2003-2009, knew about the existence of the irregular classes and actively enrolled players in them. But Holladay is adamant that Walden thought the AFAM classes were legitimate. He wants Walden’s name cleared and he worries about the repercussions Wainstein’s conclusions could have for the basketball program.
“There’s no better person than Wayne Walden,” Holladay said. “I hate it for men’s basketball if someone thinks Wayne did something wrong. Obviously we better get some facts out there because I think the NCAA will use a lot of the Wainstein Report. If we paid $4 million for PR and for Wainstein and he spent almost a year on this, then I would think the NCAA will look at a lot of that report and think it has to be true because they spent so much time on this. Even though they’re interviewing people themselves, if we don’t get some facts out there before it comes out, it’s hard to fight it once something comes out.”
Chancellor Carol Folt declined to comment for this story. Cunningham said that there will be opportunities for those who feel misrepresented by the Wainstein Report to share their side with the NCAA, which is conducting its own interviews. Holladay, who spoke with the Wainstein group for about 100 minutes, later spent 80 minutes with NCAA investigators.
“There’s a lot of facts in there. There’s also a lot of opinion in there,” Cunningham said of the Wainstein Report. “And so if you were interviewed and you didn’t like how you were characterized in the final report, then you’re going to pick apart different parts of it. It’s one person’s interpretation of 126 interviews. It’s some opinion, some fact, and it was used to try to understand what happened. It’s not a legal document. It’s not a document that will be the answer guide to SACS, the NCAA or anything else. It’s just one piece of evidence in a large body of information.”
What impact will the Wainstein Report have on the NCAA investigation? Check back next week for the third edition of Inside Carolina's ongoing series.