North Carolina Tar Heels: PJ Hairston

UNC panel recommendations revealing

September, 4, 2013
North Carolina's athletics department has not had a very good year. Actually, check that: UNC athletics has not had a very good five years. I'm not talking about its teams' performance, which has been par for the respective course. No, I mean athletics program itself from Julius Peppers' transcript to the Butch Davis football mess to the protracted examination (and re-examination, and re-re-examination) of the Afro and African-American Studies' department's seemingly too-friendly ties with athletics to the public faculty criticism all the way up to this summer's P.J. Hairston saga. The cumulative effect of all this turmoil has drenched a proud athletics program at a proud public university in a thoroughly sketchy light.

At best, a previously pristine veneer has been chipped. At worst, the Tar Heels have provided examples of everything everybody (shady classes, institutional deference to sports, fancy cars for basketball stars provided by mysterious third parties) loathes about college athletics, all in one place. It's not a good look.

In Chapel Hill and the surrounding lowlands, this existential crisis (and the various inquiries and panels assembled to audit it) has produced plenty of discussion. Some have been brutally honest, others too willing to shrug problems away, but the discussion itself counts as a step in the right direction a necessary open dialogue about sports' place in university life, and the competing interests therein.

This discussion remains ongoing. Indeed, just this week, an independent panel led by Association of American Universities President Hunter Rawlings published a list of 28 recommendations These are some of the 28 recommendations on "how to better balance academics and athletics" at UNC, the Charlotte Observer reported Wednesday.

Some of the Rawlings panel's recommendations are semi-silly academic noodling the creation of a "formal consortium of like-minded universities with similar academic standards to discuss creative solutions to problems in academics" sounds like thought-leader speak for "an excuse to go to a resort in Aspen, Co. and argue with other academics for a week." Likewise, No. 26, which recommends UNC "consider reducing the number of hours student-athletes devote to sports," doesn't exactly speak truth to power. There are a lot of bullet points like that. Ideas like "mandatory education program for coaches," "final decision-making authority" for admissions residing in the hands of actual university admissions officers, holding student-athletes are held to the same standards as other students, and an establishing "standards relating to medical care provided to athletes" are so obvious they shouldn't even need to be stated. You guys are doing that stuff already, right?

Still there are some really interesting, even borderline revolutionary, ideas in the mix. One calls for conferences or the NCAA to "establish spending caps on specific sports for team operating expenses." Another suggests a revision of NCAA tournament and college postseason revenue dispersal that would tie financial rewards for on-field success to academic incentives off it. A third posits that "UNC-CH should consider requiring 'year of readiness' for 'special admit' athletes in the freshman year and advocate for this reform nationally. During readiness year, students would be ineligible to compete in varsity sports but would retain four years of athletic eligibility." Those may be entirely unrealistic, but that doesn't make them bad ideas.

Indeed, they're interesting starting points exactly the kind of discussions the entire college athletics industry needs to undertake. Maybe it's nothing more but chastened lip service, but this quote from athletics director Bubba Cunningham is encouraging:
“The infusion of money into college athletics has been tremendous in the last 30 years, and I don’t think anyone understood what that was going to mean to the institution,” he said. “I personally think that we missed the boat years ago when we didn’t increase the number of opportunities for kids to participate in sport. We’ve poured more and more money into existing sports.”

UNC athletics turmoil has coincided with the most fraught collegiate sports landscape in history, a period of ballooning TV profits, conference realignment, and a class action lawsuit that threatens to crumble the amateur foundation upon which the NCAA has been built. Many of these discussions have focused on what is fair for college athletes, whether football and basketball players are being exploited by the schools they compete for. They are loud and as hominem and messy. What can be missed in the noise is that the value of a university scholarship is directly tied to how well schools are educating their players. Whether student-athletes are being taught, or merely shepherded through the motions en route to the next big away game, is core to the discussion in the first place. It is the premise on which the whole shebang rests.

You can't talk about costs and benefits of NCAA reform or NCAA collapse without knowing the realities on the ground. Maybe, just maybe, UNC can turn years of embarrassing investigations and inquiries and panels into an alignment of these discussions once and for all.

Call it a teachable moment.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Another road game, another struggle for Wake Forest, which has yet to win a conference test away from home. North Carolina, meanwhile, now has won six of its past seven games. A quick look at the Tar Heels’ 87-62 blowout victory over the Demon Deacons at the Smith Center on Tuesday night:

Turning point: With 5 minutes, 54 seconds left in the first half, Arnaud Adala Moto converted a three-point play to cut Wake Forest’s deficit to 32-26. But it was the last field goal the Deacons scored before halftime, as the Tar Heels broke away with a 15-1 run that included seven points from Reggie Bullock and four from P.J. Hairston (back after sitting out Saturday’s victory against Virginia Tech because of a concussion).

That gave UNC a 47-27 lead at the break, as the Tar Heels outscored the Deacons 18-3 off turnovers alone, and point guard Marcus Paige grabbed a career-high six rebounds in the first 20 minutes. And the game only grew more lopsided in the second half.

Key player(s): Sophomore forward James Michael McAdoo had 20 points and Bullock scored 23, the first time all season that duo has each recorded 20 or more points in the same game. ... Moto finished with 13 points for Wake.

Noteworthy number(s): In its past three ACC road games, Wake Forest has trailed by 20, 17 and 30 in the first half. The Deacons shot just 39.1 percent in the first half and committed 13 turnovers. ... UNC's point total was a season high in ACC play this season; 12 Tar Heels scored.

Etc.: Hairston, considered doubtful to play because of flu-like symptoms Monday, checked in to a loud cheer from the crowd with 14:58 left in the first half. He finished with 11 points.

What’s next: The Tar Heels play at No. 8 Miami on Saturday; Wake hosts Florida State the same day.


UNC evening illness/injury update

February, 4, 2013
The latest on UNC’s injuries and illnesses, via Tar Heels coach Roy Williams on his radio show Monday night:
  • Starting forward James Michael McAdoo, who hurt his back near the end of Saturday's win over Virginia Tech and sat out Sunday’s practice because of soreness, went through about half of Monday’s practice, Williams said. “And unless it flares up again, I would expect him to play,’’ against Wake Forest on Tuesday, he added.
  • Starting center Desmond Hubert, who was suffering flu-like symptoms during Sunday’s practice, also went though about half of Monday’s practice. “He didn’t feel great, he was worn out … but again, I would expect him to play,” Williams said.
  • As for P.J. Hairston, who missed Saturday’s game because of a concussion, also came down with the flu Sunday night: “I really don’t see how P.J. can play.” Williams reiterated that the sophomore was administered an IV on Monday morning, but was only able to watch practice Monday afternoon. His illness is not related to his concussion.

It was a lopsided win for North Carolina, 82-70, at Conte Forum on Tuesday night. But it was a scary win, too.

Tar Heels reserve P.J. Hairston -- who had 14 early points -- was playing defense with about four minutes left in the first half when he took an elbow to the head during a mid-air collision with teammate Dexter Strickland. Hairston lay on the floor in obvious pain for several moments, being attended to by trainer Chris Hirth and coach Roy Williams, before teammates tried to help him back to the bench. But Hairston appeared woozy and lost his balance after a step or two, and he was eventually taken off the court via stretcher.

Hairston was diagnosed with a concussion. He returned to the end of the bench in the second half for a stretch before returning to the locker room. He was expected to be able to fly home with the team.

Turning point: The Tar Heels were trailing 8-2 when Hairston came off the bench and jump-started 19-4 run that pushed his team ahead, for good. Hairston had four 3-pointers during the stretch. Then, fouled on a 3 with 8:22 left in the first half, he buried two free throws to propel the Tar Heels ahead 29-18.

Standout player(s): Hairston had three assists to go along with 14 points in 12 minutes before his injury, continuing his roughly one-point-per-minute trend over his past few outings. Against Georgia Tech last week, he scored 15 points in 17 minutes; at NC State, he recorded 19 points in 17 minutes.

Meanwhile, teammate James Michael McAdoo finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds, his third double-double in his past four games.

Freshman Olivier Hanlan led BC with 22 points, tying his career high.

Number(s) to know: The Tar Heels scored 38 points in the 15 minutes, 58 seconds before Hairston left the game, and 44 points in the 24:02 after he was hurt.

What it means for UNC: A bounce back. After falling behind by as many as 28 points in their loss to NC State on Saturday, the Tar Heels were more active from the outset, diving for loose balls, building as much as an 18-point lead, then holding on. They are now 4-3 in ACC play, and pushed their record to 5-5 away from home.

“We feel very fortunate right now, we really do,’’ coach Roy Williams said after the game. “To go 7-for-13 from the 3-point line is good, but P.J. was 4-for-4, so that gives you a good start.”

Williams was also happier with his team’s rebounding; UNC won 33-25 on the boards.

What it means for BC: More learning for a freshman- and sophomore-laden team. Perhaps more frustration, too. It marked the fifth straight ACC loss for the Eagles, although three of its previous defeats during that stretch had been by five or fewer points. But this time, guard Joe Rahon -- averaging 10.4 ppg -- was held to four points; and teammate Lonnie Jackson -- shooting .568 from 3-point land in his previous seven games -- was 1-for-6 from beyond the arc.

Next up: UNC plays Virginia Tech at home on Saturday; Boston College plays Clemson at home the same day.