Naval class taken by North Carolina basketball players is under scrutiny

Like many college students who wanted to boost their GPAs and still have enough time to work and have a social life, I sought out a few classes considered easy A's with the urgency of a pirate seeking buried treasure.

A "History of the Beatles" class I took my sophomore year is one that stands out. A "Sports Culture" class from my junior year is another.

Stories like that make it difficult for me to get too preachy and judgmental about Tuesday night's news that many athletes at North Carolina enrolled in a relatively stress-free class called "Naval Weapons Systems."

According to the Raleigh News & Observer, 30 of the 38 North Carolina students enrolled in the class in spring 2007 were athletes, including six members of the men's basketball team. The class did meet but it had no mandatory exams, quizzes or research papers — only a brief midterm paper and a 20-minute oral presentation split among five students.

The class comes under scrutiny now because of an academical scandal that began with "no-show" classes in North Carolina's Department of African and Afro-American Studies and involved mostly football players. The scandal has sparked multiple investigations this year and led to the resignation of Chancellor Holden Thorp last month.

If the North Carolina athletes in this naval sciences class received special treatment from the professor or received a grade without doing the requisite work, then this is an issue that could and should prompt further NCAA punishment. If this is merely a group of students taking a class they heard wouldn't be too difficult, then it's no different than what goes on among athletes and non-athletes at every campus across the country.

It's now the job of North Carolina officials and NCAA investigators to determine which of those scenarios is the case.

North Carolina made a mockery of its ballyhooed academic mission for a long time with its academic shenanigans in the African and Afro-American Studies Department, so the Tar Heels deserve any additional scrutiny they get now as a result. But unless compelling evidence surfaces that the athletes got on easier ride than other students, this latest story probably isn't going to lead anywhere.

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