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Listen to the president: “Our constitution and bylaws make it perfectly clear that the association exists not simply to promote fair play on the field, but to insist that athletics programs provide positive moral models for our students, enhance the integrity of higher education and promote the values of civility, honesty and responsibility. The sanctions we are imposing are based upon these most fundamental principles of the NCAA.”

He was talking about Penn State. That could easily be North Carolina. There aren’t excuses.

Over and over, Emmert pounds the academic primacy of college athletics. Repeating “student-athlete” like some sort of incantation doesn’t make it reality. Not when the NCAA’s entire structure is built on the fallacy of amateurism, the unpaid labor that generates hundreds of millions of dollars each year, free of pesky salaries and workers’ compensation. Take the student away from the athlete and the NCAA is left with a workforce — yes, actual employees — that it can’t use verbal gymnastics to avoid paying.

In Emmert’s biography on the NCAA’s website, after swearing athletes will never be paid under his watch, the president adds, “we’re providing athletes with world class educations and world class opportunities.”

Does what went on at North Carolina sound “world class”?

How much value is the student portion of student-athlete when the athletes are shuffled through a maze designed to keep them eligible, not prepare them for a productive career after athletics?

If the lofty-sounding, ear-tickling, salary-dodging ideas about student-athletes are something more than a hypocritical gimmick to keep the money flowing, Emmert’s NCAA will act on North Carolina. The president’s words demand it. Doing nothing would be the real scandal.