It's almost impossible to know what Roy Williams really thinks about the P.J. Hairston rental car fiasco. For the most part, Williams has been quiet. When he's spoken to reporters, he's kept it vague. Is he torn over the decision? Does he want to close ranks around his player, even if the optics are tough? Or is he gritting his teeth instead, knowing he needs Hairston for UNC to bounce back from a so-so (by its own standards) season, even if he'd rather cut the cord?
I don't know. But if Williams is half as torn as the UNC community seems to be about it, he's had some long nights this offseason.
The latest such example came this weekend, from the Daily Tar Heel, where 23-year athletic academics tutor Jack Halperin published an open letter to Williams calling his decision to keep Hairston on the team "disgraceful," and pinning his own decision to leave UNC's academic services office on the same:
Roy, after 23 years as an academic tutor, and after going through the devastating football scandal, I am resigning in protest of your disgraceful decision to allow P.J. Hairston to remain on the team.
If I were arrested driving with no license, illegal drugs and a gun in a felon’s car, my employment at this University would end immediately.
Hairston’s DTH headline quote was, “I will play this season.” Since when does the criminal decide his fate?
Athletic academic tutor
Yeah. It's not good.
It would be not good at any school, of course. Simply put, support staff don't call out coaches. Like, ever. Certainly not in public. Definitely not in such strong language. And so this would be embarrassing for any school it happened to, whether its academics ready was squeaky clean or not.
North Carolina's academic record is not squeaky clean. Indeed, the Tar Heels are in many ways still reeling from the years-long scandal and subsequent inquiries into academic improprieties in the Afro- and African-American Studies department, where both athletes and non-athletes were found to have benefited from bogus classes and questionable grades. Chapel Hill has been at something like a dull, constant roar for two years now. Some are desperate to move on. Others are determined to keep the discussion at the fore.
If a college basketball writer's inbox is any indication, UNC fans' thoughts on Hairston run along the same rough lines. That's not how it usually goes: Usually, fans support a player and their coach almost blindly, because that's just part of the deal. A few months ago, when NC State fans were crowdsourcing their investigation into Hairston's rental cars, there was plenty of unity; attack foments solidarity. But what about now? Are UNC fans cool with Hairston being back in Williams' good graces?
Let's be real: If Hairston comes back and makes another 90 3s this year, and posts another plus-120 offensive rating, and leads the Tar Heels to (let's say) the Elite Eight, no one in Chapel Hill will complain. That's just how it goes. But what about now? There are few things more embarrassing to a storied college hoops program than having one of your own athletics academics staffers call your coach's decision "disgraceful" in the student newspaper. At what point do Carolina fans get fed up?