A fellow reviewer says "author Peter Golenbock gives us a side of college basketball that is rarely seen: corruption." Problem is, with "Personal Fouls" Golenbock gives book publishing something that is quite commonplace: fiction.
"Personal Fouls" tells of point-shaving and illegal recruitment at the NC State basketball program, but it is instructive to note that the original publisher of the manuscript, Pocket Books, rejected it for failing to meet company standards (and later published Valvano's account). "Personal Fouls" is filled with misspellings and factual errors. The book prompted multiple investigations of the NC State basketball program, including those by NC State, the UNC system and the NCAA, and nary a trace of the point-shaving, illegal recruitment, or any of the other big-time scandals alleged in the book. The bulk of the program's NCAA violations were that athletes sold complimentary tickets and shoes without the coaches' knowledge and that there was "a lack of institutional control" of the program. In fact, Jim Valvano, whose fame was arrogated to help sell this book, was not implicated by the NCAA in any of the violations, nor were any of the other coaches.
Furthermore, upon the conclusion of the NCAA investigation, the NCAA's chief investigator, David Didion, sent Jim Valvano a letter (dated October 26, 1989) in which he told Valvano that "If I had a son, I would feel comfortable with you as his coach and encourage him to learn from you" and that Valvano was "good for intercollegiate athletics, good for N.C. State and good for the NCAA."
Of course, the NCAA investigators actually talked to Jim Valvano, unlike Golenbock, who avoided Valvano in favor of running with anonymous interviews with people nursing grudges against him. Golenbock also avoided NC State Chancellor Bruce Poulton.
What Golenbock wrote may have shaken the world of college athletics, and certainly there was much that needed to be changed, but he did so by alleging high crimes and outrageous deeds at the personal expense of a man who did neither. Imagine, if you can, a world in which Chicken Little was taken seriously, and you'll have an understanding of what Peter Golenbock did. The sky was not falling, but the façades were erected to protect against it anyway. NC State basketball was not rife with corruption as Golenbock alleged, but it was gutted anyway. Arguably college athletics are better off now for the changes wrought after and in some part owing to the publication of "Personal Fouls." But the cost of those changes were borne unfairly by Valvano, NC State University, and on a higher plane, the truth.
Let's be careful here before saying that the changes made are so good they justify the scapegoating of Valvano and NC State. Because if we are suddenly to suggest that the end justifies the means, then we are to adopt the same standard Golenbock invents for NC State basketball under Valvano and then decries.