The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill has just made an enormous political mistake. Just days after being put on accreditation probation in the wake of a massive academic fraud scandal, they decided to fire wrestling coach C.D. Mock. His firing comes under suspicious circumstances and has serious First Amendment implications.
The university is claiming that C.D. Mock was fired because of his team’s performance. It is true that his team has not finished higher than fourth at the ACC Championships since 2008. But there is more to the story. Coach Mock is not your ordinary wrestling coach. He is also an outspoken defender of college men’s right to due process in campus rape adjudications. Unfortunately, advocating due process for men is an unpopular position in the UNC system.
The story really began when Mock’s son Corey was accused of sexual assault at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga last year. Coach Mock responded to the accusations by writing a blog entry titled, “Falsely Accused of Sexual Assault in College.” His words were strong but unfortunately loaded with undeniable truth:
If a woman accuses you of sexual assault at a university, you will immediately be removed from the campus prior to any investigation or determination of guilt. YOU HAVE NO CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS IN COLLEGE. The University or College will do everything in its power to prosecute you and kick you out of school regardless of the evidence and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, and they know it. You can sue the school and the alleged victim as we are doing, but the minimum cost to sue is $50,000 and the NCAA isn’t going to give you your year back if you win.
After Coach Mock expressed his views, which are clearly protected by the First Amendment, he was contacted by the UNC administration and asked to come in for a meeting. At that time, while fearing First Amendment retaliation, he reached out to me for help.
They did not fire him immediately. Instead, UNC waited several months and replaced him with a 28-year-old assistant coach with only one year of coaching experience. Coach Mock responded with another blog post:
It is no big surprise that UNC fired me last week. I knew the risks and considered the possibility of this happening six months ago when I started talking about the campus rape hoax and how colleges are responding to it. … We are beginning to tolerate the idea that it is ok and in fact a reasonable strategy to silence any opposition to one’s beliefs and views rather than to encourage debate. Was I fired because my beliefs and views differ from those of the leadership at UNC? If one believes this to be true, there should be outrage throughout the Carolina community. Certainly not because a wrestling coach was fired; but, because a major University may have taken extreme measures to silence one of it’s own who is a vocal critic on an issue that has nothing to do with that individual’s job. Is the next firing going to be because of one’s religious preference? Or perhaps, the next coach or professor fired at UNC will be because of his or her views on gay rights? If this is ok, where does this end?
The case that Coach Mock’s firing was speech-related is clearly circumstantial. Mock rebuts the school’s claims that his performance was deficient by noting that his team’s GPA was “the highest in the history of the program” this past semester.
That argument cannot be easily dismissed given the recent academic fraud scandal that rocked the school and resulted in UNC having its accreditation status placed in jeopardy. Many readers will recall that the story hit national news when it was discovered that football players were taking fake classes in the African American studies department. Most would conclude that this scandal should have solidified Coach Mock’s job security. More than ever, the school needed to retain coaches whose athletes were performing academically – and doing so in legitimate classes, not fake ones. Mock had this to say about the scandal:
When was the last time UNC hired a 28-year-old Head Coach who had only one year of coaching experience? Why at a time when compliance is such a critical issue for this school would the administration be in such a rush all of the sudden to get an experienced coach out only to bring in one with very limited experience?
Coach Mock’s critics will say that he is not justified in claiming to be a victim of political speech retaliation unless he has direct evidence. There are two rather obvious rebuttals to such criticism.
First, liberal professors all across the university system claimed that last year the Board of Governors (BOG) for purely political reasons fired UNC President Tom Ross. Their claim is based on the weak circumstantial evidence that Ross is a leftist and the BOG now has a Republican majority. This claim also ignores the obvious fact that Ross was fired after he presided over the biggest academic fraud scandal in university history. Second, it assumes that the UNC administration is entitled to a presumption of innocence until its critics produce sufficient evidence of political retaliation. I disagree.
Consistency demands that we proceed with a Mock trial against the UNC system. And we should provide the administration with all the safeguards they provide for those accused of “sexual assault.”