UNC schools work to avoid future embarrassment


"The problem is real," ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said. "It doesn't have to get worse. We have a major role to play."

Ballard, who is the chairman of the UNC System Task Force on Athletics and Academics, admits he and several other university leaders have their work cut out for them. Recent headline-making sports scandals have highlighted glaring problems with athletic programs.

"Embarrassing incidents live a while," Ballard said. "I think putting it behind us really means every institution is controlling their particular risks as well as they possibly can."

From academic fraud to NCAA compliance, the group will try to come up with ways to prevent the embarrassment already felt by programs like UNC football.

Ensuring athletes are ready for college and being clear about NCAA rules will require a team effort, according to task force members.

"Faculty members or individuals that could potentially bring out a different perspective in our student athletes -- start thinking about life after the sport," said Angelia Nelson, ECSU.

But with competition comes the potential for problems and temptation to break the rules.

University leaders say real solutions will require real funding to improve oversight and more student athlete tutors. It's a daunting task given tight budgets and ideas that never get any play.

"That's the nature of all task forces, but we're also going to do a benefit to the system if every institution has a new level of awareness and understanding about how hard some of these things are to control," Ballard said.

The task force is also on a very aggressive timeline with plans to make some serious recommendations in May.

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