Saturday, February 7, 2015

Taking Coaching the Mind to Film

One of my life goals has been to write for film. A year ago, I had no idea an opportunity to do so would present itself at this point in my life, but that opportunity has come indeed. Yesterday I left UNC, on good terms, to begin working on a feature documentary film that will challenge the popular understanding of the alleged athletics scandal. The decision to leave was difficult, but I made it with the conviction that this film is important and with the hope to return to UNC after the film is completed.

Honestly, I wish my first film could be about another subject, but the media’s continued sensationalism and Jay Smith’s relentless defamation compel me to take this fight to the next level.

Some have asked me why I feel so compelled. After all, the events of the alleged athletics scandal ended before I began working at UNC. Why have I chosen to make this my fight? A story from my childhood will explain. When I was in middle school, there was a bully in my neighborhood. He was not much bigger than me, but for some reason I found him intimidating. One day, my younger, smaller friend and I rode by the neighborhood basketball court, where the bully was playing, and he started chasing after us. He caught up to my friend and punched him in the face, which led to an ugly black eye the next day. I did nothing. I could have gotten off my bike and defended my friend, but I just watched. And for a week I felt cowardly and guilty. I swore to myself that I would never again stand by idly while someone bullied the people I care about.

For over two years after I arrived here in Fall 2011, I felt, at many times, like I felt that day by the neighborhood basketball court. Dan Kane, Sara Ganim, Paul Barrett, and Jay Smith were—and have continued—figuratively punching my former colleagues in the face, and neither I nor anyone else was doing anything to stop them. My first blog entry, on February 24, 2014, was my way of finally punching back.

Unfortunately, the University hired an investigator, Kenneth Wainstein, who, as prosecutors are trained to do, was more committed to building a case than to presenting a fair account of those involved in the now-infamous paper classes. Consequently, the bullies in the media and in the History department now possess more weaponry with which to continue their assault.

Part of me wonders whether I would be generally happier if I had just put my head down and ignored the sensationalism and defamation. But I just could not do that. I could not tolerate feeling like I was back at the neighborhood basketball court, watching my friend get punched in the face. I had to fight back, whether or not anyone else wanted me to do so. I cannot countenance a world in which bullies are given liberty to perpetuate abuse unchallenged. To what extent I can win this fight is impossible to foretell. Regardless, I believe, by at least engaging in it, those bullies and others will have reason to pause before perpetuating such abuse in the future.

Fortunately, I will not be alone. I have an experienced and talented production team committed to transforming this story into an engaging film, and I am confident the final product will challenge viewers to reconsider their position on the alleged athletics scandal.

Last night, I launched the Kickstarter campaign for the film, and, at the time of this writing, the campaign has already raised over $33,000. Clearly, there is a segment of the population not content with the sensationalized narrative perpetuated by reckless journalists and a contemptuous History professor.

Again, I intend for my departure from UNC to be temporary. After the film is completed, I hope to return to the University in some capacity, and I look forward to doing so. I have many colleagues I admire there, and I believe UNC is an institution that will soon re-establish itself as a model for others to follow. I am proud to be a Tar Heel, and I look forward to contributing more to the University's success. 

Although I will miss the student-athletes whom I served the past three and a half years, I know they will be supported well. They have always been supported well by the dedicated academic counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes. Those counselors are why the term student-athlete still has meaning.

In closing, I leave you with the words of Abraham Lincoln: “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.” Those who have supported me and continue to support me have my word that I will be true and live up to what light I may have.

You can contribute to the Kickstarter here. Thanks in advance for your contribution.