Prospects were bright for a successful football season this year at the University of North Carolina.

And then news broke of a scandal involving improper contact with professional agents, preferential treatment and academic cheating. In fact, what attracted the attention of the NCAA enforcers, reportedly, was a player who just couldn’t stop bragging via his Twitter feed.

Now, however, UNC’s Tar Heels are 0-2 and looking ahead to a long, long season. A few players have been declared ineligible for a number of games. And the investigation continues.

Wednesday, the student paper at UNC — the Daily Tar Heel — used nearly its entire front page to show the scope of the entire mess.

Click for a much larger — hopefully, readable — view:

I’m not sure if there’s a name for this kind of diagram. But it can be extremely effective when one wants to show relationships or connections. It’s kind of a flow chart — except, without the flow. I see them sometimes explaining TV shows like Lost or the Sopranos. A few years ago, one of my interns drew a chart similar to this showing the teaching staff of a small school where several folks were related or had other connections.

They’re never easy to build, however. And this one is built — and reads — particularly well. Kudos to the folks who put it together: Sara Gregory, Jonathan Jones and Ryan Kurtzman. And even more laurels to the genius who decided to put it out front yesterday.

Find an online version of this graphic — unfortunately, not interactive and even more difficult to read — here.

Go here to read today’s developments in the story.

Thanks to my good pal Jim McBee for the tip.


UNC’s Sara Gregory writes to tell us how the graphic came to be:

I got the idea for the graphic from hearing a lot of people talking about the investigation asking how it was connected or saying it would be more clear if connected.

On a whim I started mapping it out and drawing lines between people who were connected to one another. Then with the sports editor (Jonathan) and the graphics editor (Ryan) we finalized who we wanted on the chart and what we wanted it to say, and started figuring out how to show it.

From the beginning I saw it as something very large that would anchor the front page and we were assured we would have space on front and a lot of room to play with, which was great. We also said from the start we weren’t trying to break any new information, just sum up what we’ve been reporting visually.

When we started laying it out, our early versions were somewhat confusing and didn’t show the connections as clearly. We also played around a lot with where people were placed on the web — we wanted to make sure that people were connected in appropriate ways that wouldn’t overstate their significance to the investigation. We started simplifying it and decided on who the most important figures were to put in the main circle, and then expanded from there with who they were connected with.

We spent two days on it — the first day mapping it out and getting the text and photos gathered and the second day editing and polishing.

We’ve gotten a mix of feedback from it. A lot of people have told us that showing it visually made it easier for them to understand the relationships. Some people have said it was overwhelming. It’s definitely something we don’t usually do, so in that aspect it was a lot of fun to work on.