UNC’s Edelman Bill Rises to Nearly $2 Million; Critics Pounce

unc_logo_c_32a691Last month, the scandal-plagued University of North Carolina revealed the “scary” price of crisis communications: $782,000 for “several months” of work performed by a team from Edelman.

Yesterday, that number jumped to $2 million — and you could almost hear the sound of critics scoffing online.

Key quote via The Charlotte Observer:

“A copy of the contract provided under a public records request shows Edelman will receive more than $1.65 million for public relations services over the period of a year, ending April 30, 2015.”

But will the investment ultimately pay off for the school?

Today, an op-ed in the local News Observer argues that PR assistance has a limited value for UNC:

“The academic-athletics scandal, with phony courses and academic advisers guiding athletes to them and with administrators failing miserably in oversight, was not a public relations problem.”

In case you forgot, this scandal was about creating fake classes to allow athletes to score passing grades so they could continue playing football and basketball while exerting the bare minimum required to qualify as “students.”

“This wasn’t about public relations, about trying to smooth out the rough edges, about “spinning” the story to make it more favorable to the university.”

Nope. It was about academic fraud and a university culture that values sports over integrity AND education but remains unwilling to call these players what they are: professional athletes.

Also:

“To add to the embarrassment, the university’s leaders harshly criticized whistle-blower Mary Willingham, who had been an academic adviser and dared to speak out. She has yet to receive a deserved apology from administrators.”

UNC got caught red-handed, and obfuscation will not save them. No journalist or observer should be satisfied with anything less than an extended round of apologies to all involved followed by concrete evidence that the university has taken steps to ensure that this sort of practice — which was deeply embedded in the school’s day-to-day operations — will never happen again.