UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said admission requirements for athletes will become more difficult at the university. CHUCK LIDDY
CHAPEL HILL — Holden Thorp, the chancellor at the University of North Carolina, visited The News & Observer on Wednesday and gave an hour-long interview with reporters and editors. Thorp spoke about a variety of topics – why he is choosing to resign in June, 2013; how the university is addressing the various problems that arose during recent years; and how he’s determined to leave UNC prepared for a better future.
As you might imagine, Thorp also spent a lot of time addressing the issues related to academics and athletics that have continually emerged during the past two-and-a-half years. There was, first, the academic fraud that emerged early in the NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits. And then the recent internal investigation of the Africian and Afro-American Studies Department, which found 54 problematic classes.
In his interview with The N&O on Wednesday, Thorp said UNC would implement more stringent admission policies for athletes. Our Andy Curliss wrote about that in a story you can read right here.
Here are the highlights:
--One thing to remember is that in 2016, the NCAA as a whole will mandate tougher admission standards. To complete in their freshman year, incoming athletes must graduate from high school with at least a 2.3 grade-point average. That will be an increase over the 2.0 that’s required now.
--Thorp, though, said UNC is likely to increase its admission standards before 2016. He said, “I suspect that we’ll end up raising our standards ahead of that time. We’ll be ahead of the curve.”
--As you know, former North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin is leading a deeper investigation into the problems that UNC identified in the AFAM department. In addition to that, Thorp said a firm is auditing all transcripts for UNC athletes – and other groups on campus, like fraternities – in an attempt to uncover any problematic patterns, like clustering, or classes that routinely result in a large number of high grades.
--Thorp said the changes coming to UNC will be “national news” when they become public in the spring, after the release of a report. “Academics are going to come first,” Thorp said. “And it’s clear that they haven’t to the extent that they should.”
--So what does this mean for athletes who are “special admits?” A special admit, of course, describes a student who doesn’t meet the normal requirements for admission but who is granted an exception and admitted anyway. A large percentage of special admits on every campus with a major college athletics program are athletes. In the past five years, 53 football players have been granted admission exceptions.
Thorp said the percentage of UNC’s exceptions will decrease as academic standards increase. He said: “I do expect that to evolve and obviously evolve in a way that allows us to recruit people who can succeed in the classroom and on the field as well. We will be enrolling a greater percentage of students that are above whatever lines we’ve had in the past.”
--Thorp said he believes high-level athletics and high-level academics can co-exist at UNC, and that it can and will work. My thought on this – and you can write a book about this – is that it’s always going to be difficult for a certain percentage of athletes who arrive on campus completely unprepared for academic life in college.