The Carolina Way and the myth of amateurism

Table of contents

Table of Contents
Author’s note
Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10


In 2009, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was on top of the world.

Consistently named one of the top universities in the country, it had welcomed a new phenom of a chancellor who promised to lead the public Ivy into the future. In the all-important athletic realm, the Tar Heels were the Coca-Cola of athletic brands. Resting upon the legacy of legendary basketball coach Dean Smith, UNC had carved out a reputation of excellence paired with squeaky-clean adherence to the rules. Supporters had a name for that irresistible ethos: the Carolina Way. The Tar Heels were climbing even higher. That year, they won their fifth national championship in men's basketball and looked poised to climb the ranks in football under a new, high-powered coach.

But within just a few years, it all came crashing down.

The Tar Heels' success, it turned out, was based on a foundation of deceit. Athletes were flocking to a slate of fake classes that advisers deftly used to keep them eligible to play. That revelation and others metastasized into one of the most damaging scandals ever to visit an American college. In Discredited, journalist Andy Thomason provides a gripping and authoritative retelling of the scandal through the eyes of four of its key participants: the secretary who presided over the fake classes, the professor who directed players toward them, the literacy specialist turned whistleblower who sought to expose the system, and the chancellor who found his career suddenly on the line. The heart-stopping narrative reveals the toll of a college's investment in major sports, and the amateurism myth upon which it is based. Based on dozens of original interviews and thousands of pages of documents, Discredited demonstrates just how far a university will go to preserve the athletic status quo: tolerating tarnished careers, ruined reputations, and years of scathing media criticism—all for a shot at competitive glory.

Andy Thomason is Assistant Managing Editor at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

“Even diehard fans of college sports will question their obsession after reading this page-turning tale about the modern machinery that runs big-time athletics on campuses. Meticulously researched, Andy Thomason shows us what happens when fans and academic leaders alike turn a blind eye to the mission of higher education all in the name of entertainment, money, and fame.”
—Jeffrey Selingo, author of Who Gets In and Why: A Year Inside College Admissions

- Jeffrey Selingo

“This engrossing book captures—with depth and passion—the toxic cocktail that set the UNC scandal into motion, and strikes at the heart of the lies higher education tells itself to preserve the myth of amateurism. Thomason’s convincing argument should serve as a warning to higher education. Hopefully, it is a guide as well.”
—Adam Harris, author of The State Must Provide

- Adam Harris

“Big-time sports in American universities are predicated on the myth of amateurism; that serving athletes’ educational and athletic interests represent the enterprise’s guiding light. But football and men’s basketball, in particular, fuel a multibillion-dollar sports entertainment industry, one that has reached a breaking point. Andy Thomason shows why the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the perfect place to deconstruct the amateurism myth—and to show its potentially devastating effects on the reputations and missions of institutions of higher education—as university leaders across the nation today continue to cling to it.”
—Victoria Jackson, UNC alumna, NCAA national champion, and sports historian at Arizona State University

- Victoria Jackson

"Thomason’s book should inspire research into the post-college lives of typical players. All the “patches” that UNC or any other big-sports university can devise can’t solve the underlying problem that Frank Porter Graham identified some ninety years ago." 
James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal

- George Leef

Read: Andy Thomason featured article in The Chronicle of Higher Education | 09/07/2021
Read: Review by the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal | 09/06/2021
Listen: Andy Thomason on The Experiment | 07/29/2021
Read: Excerpt in The Assembly | 06/29/2021
Read: Excerpt in The Chronicle of Higher Education | 06/22/2021
Read: Article in The Daily Tar Heel | 04/12/2021
Listen: Going for Two interviews Andy Thomason | 03/03/2021
Listen: WBUR's interview with Andy Thomason | 09/03/2020