Larry Fedora's decision to bring in Tim Beckman warrants scrutiny

10:11 PM ET

North Carolina goes into the season a preseason top-25 team and the favorite in the Coastal Division. It is a program that finally seems headed in the right direction after so many years in which it could not get out of its own way.

Yet the headline Wednesday was not about the marquee matchup against Georgia next week or the energy and excitement players feel as they embark on what could be another stellar season. No, coach Larry Fedora created a sideshow when he decided to bring in former Illinois coach Tim Beckman as a volunteer assistant.

Fedora and North Carolina can justify this all they want, saying Beckman is there only to watch film and scout and that he will provide no instruction to players. But there is no justification for bringing in a former head coach who was fired after a school investigation found that he mistreated the very players he was entrusted to lead.

Rather than acknowledging the perception problem he created with the decision to welcome Beckman, Fedora told reporters in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, after practice Wednesday night, “I don’t believe everything I read, all right. I know Tim. I know his side of the story also.”

Just as a refresher, the University of Illinois hired a law firm to conduct an independent investigation into allegations of abuse against Beckman in 2015. Fedora might want to get on the internet and read the report, just to get both sides. Among the findings, the report accused Beckman of demeaning injured players with derogatory statements, pressuring trainers to downplay injuries and forcing players to give up their scholarships. One former player called him, “the worst coach I ever met.” Another accused him of “abuse and misuse of power.”

Beckman was fired last August. He denied the allegations and eventually settled a wrongful termination lawsuit with Illinois for $250,000.

When asked about the criticism that came with the Beckman decision, Fedora told reporters, “I didn’t see anywhere where the NCAA said that he should be banned from the game of football.”

That might be true, but the NCAA should not have to make this decision for Fedora. Beckman lost his right to be around players based on his conduct. Fedora has nothing to gain but negative headlines and the perception that he has completely disregarded serious allegations that involve players like his own. His comments Wednesday night reveal as much.

Sure, there is a connection between Fedora and Beckman: They worked together briefly a decade ago at Oklahoma State. Maybe Fedora wanted to give his buddy a shot. Coaching circles often are about whom you know, not what you know. Plus, North Carolina plays at Illinois in Week 2. Maybe Fedora wanted to gain an infinitesimal scouting advantage.

But there is no possible way Fedora believes that he needs Beckman to evaluate film to give North Carolina an advantage headed into that game. The Tar Heels will be double-digit favorites with or without Beckman passing along pro tips about the players he left behind.

In a week, the focus will be on the season and Georgia and everything else North Carolina has to look forward to. But that won’t change the fact that Fedora made a completely unnecessary decision that makes him and the program look bad. Why welcome unwanted scrutiny when there is absolutely no need for it?

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