Take 2: UNC's Coastal Division rings

May, 2, 2013
5/02/13
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North Carolina reportedly received Coastal Division championship rings on Monday for its final spot in the ACC standings while ineligible last season. The Tar Heels were serving an NCAA-sanctioned postseason ban, but still finished in a tie for first place with Georgia Tech and Miami, and would have won the tiebreaker scenarios against those schools.

Had they been eligible, the Tar Heels would have faced FSU in the ACC title game last December. Those within North Carolina's program have self-proclaimed themselves Coastal Division champs, the latest evidence being the rings that arrived.

They've taken some heat for it from rival schools and fans. Do they deserve the rings? It depends, of course, on whom you ask ...

Andrea Adelson says: No big deal. Let 'em have the rings.

So North Carolina is giving its players rings to commemorate what should have been a Coastal Division title.

[+] EnlargeLarry Fedora
Bob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsThe Tar Heels went 8-4 in their first season under Larry Fedora and would have gone to the ACC title game had they been eligible.
So what?

Kids get ribbons these days for just finishing a race, and folks are all up in arms because a bunch of players got rings following a noteworthy season?

But they were ineligible, you scream. They are not officially considered Coastal Division champions, you vent.

Both points are true. And last time I checked, North Carolina did not play in the ACC title game. North Carolina did not play in a bowl game. North Carolina accepted its punishment.

Nowhere does it say rings cannot be given out while serving a postseason ban. Take a trip to Columbus, and you will find Ohio State players sporting rings celebrating their 12-0 season last yea even though the team was serving a postseason ban. Georgia Tech got to keep its rings for winning the 2009 ACC title it later had to vacate.

Nowhere does it say a school cannot celebrate the efforts of its players, who had nothing to do with John Blake or any of the other major rules violations committed before many of them arrived in Chapel Hill. Giovani Bernard, for example, arrived on campus a few months before Blake resigned. He had nothing to do with what went wrong, but he and his teammates had to serve the punishment for the misdeeds of others.

This is how it goes under the NCAA sanctions umbrella. Innocent players become the victims. They must do the time, and pay the price when those too selfish to truly understand the team concept go rogue and break the rules.

I see nothing wrong with handing out a few rings to players who had an ACC championship game and bowl game taken away from them through no fault of their own. What played out last season cannot be undone like an Etch A Sketch, postseason ban or not.

The Tar Heels were good enough to play for a conference title. If the only reward they get for that is a ring, so be it.

Heather Dinich says: No title game, no rings.

North Carolina’s new bling is akin to false advertising.

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The rings, which were delivered to the players and coaches on Monday, read: “2012 ACC Coastal Champions.”

And yet there were no Tar Heels on the field last December representing the Coastal Division against FSU in the ACC championship game. The Coastal champs were the eligible ones, Georgia Tech. (It’s kind of ironic, considering Georgia Tech had to give its 2009 ACC championship trophy back to the league office after the NCAA forced the program to vacate the win.)

If Georgia Tech had to give its trophy back -- all for a piddly violation that totaled $312 worth of clothing -- then North Carolina certainly shouldn’t be walking around with championship rings they “earned” while ineligible. On the field, North Carolina finished last season in a three-way tie for first place in the Coastal Division, and would have won tiebreakers against Miami and Georgia Tech.

On the field, Georgia Tech won the 2009 ACC title, but they’ve got no trophy to show for it. (Full disclosure: Georgia Tech kept its rings. The Jackets also got those rings, though, before the NCAA handed out the sanctions. They did not have to order them on their own.)

It’s one thing for UNC coach Larry Fedora to self-proclaim his team as division champs within the locker room and on the recruiting trail. Who wouldn’t after such a successful first season? But a billboard outside of Charlotte, the signs within the football building, and now the rings have turned into more of a deceptive pat on the back. While there is certainly nothing malicious involved in Fedora’s intent, the blatant disregard for the ACC record books isn’t fair to Georgia Tech.

If North Carolina is not recognized by the ACC or the NCAA as 2012 Coastal Division champs, it shouldn’t be afforded the luxury of promoting itself as such.

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