Thorp: Football still a priority at UNC

Thorp, trustees still want a "highly competitive program" at UNC in wake of NCAA investigation, violations.

Staff WriterSeptember 23, 2011 

  • The University of North Carolina self imposed football sanctions on its football program Monday as a result of an NCAA investigation. The penalties were:

    Two years of probation.

    Loss of three scholarships in each of the next three years.

    Vacating all wins in the 2008 and 2009 seasons.

    A $50,000 fine.

    What's next?

    UNC is scheduled to appear in front of the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on Oct. 28 in Indianapolis. The committee is judge and jury in the case and will decide whether to accept UNC's self sanctions or add to them.

— University of North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp and Board of Trustees chair Wade Hargrove said Thursday that the school remains committed to success in football, NCAA rules compliance and academic integrity.

Hargrove's opening speech at a regularly scheduled Board of Trustees meeting followed Monday's news that UNC gave itself two years of probation and other sanctions after admitting nine major NCAA violations.

"I wish to assure everybody that the Board of Trustees and this chancellor are fully committed to having a highly competitive football program," Hargrove said. "There is no plan, no talk, no designs of any kind whatsoever of de-emphasizing football at Carolina."

Hargrove said those overseeing the football program made mistakes, and that the university, its faculty, alumni and the taxpayers of North Carolina deserve better.

He also vowed that the school's review of academic issues related to the NCAA probe will be deliberate, thorough and fair. UNC recently concluded a study of its Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes and made a number of recommendations for improvement, including increasing staff and expanding faculty oversight.

Impermissible academic assistance by undergraduate tutor Jennifer Wiley was one component of the NCAA's investigation into academic fraud and impermissible agent benefits.

UNC also has announced that it is probing irregularities in independent studies courses as the fallout from the NCAA investigation continues. Julius Nyang'oro has stepped down as chair of the African and Afro-American Studies Department after failing to catch plagiarism in one football player's paper and teaching another player in an upper level course before that student took remedial English. Nyang'oro also hired a sports agent, Carl Carey, to teach a summer class.

"You have my pledge that we will do what it takes to correct any problems," Thorp told the Board of Trustees on Thursday.

Thorp also praised the job interim coach Everett Withers has done since taking over for Butch Davis, who was fired in July. Last week, Withers sent an e-mail to faculty members informing them of his commitment to have players succeed in the classroom and the community.

The team has won its first three games heading into Saturday's visit to No. 25-ranked Georgia Tech.

"We're moving forward with our program," Thorp said. "We're gaining momentum and we have every reason to believe that we will be nationally competitive and successful both academically and on the field."

The scandal and Davis' firing have divided fans, though, with some calling for Thorp's removal because Davis was not personally cited in the NCAA's Notice of Allegations.

But the UNC system's Board of Governors has reaffirmed its support of Thorp.

"It is the hope of the board that the differences of the past will be put aside," Hargrove said, "and that the Carolina family will continue to give its unqualified loyalty and support to the university and to all of its athletic and academic programs."

UNC on Monday announced that it is self-imposing two years of probation, reducing three scholarships in each of the next three years, vacating its eight wins each in the 2008 and 2009 seasons, and paying a $50,000 fine.

The Committee on Infractions, which is holding a hearing for UNC on Oct. 28 in Indianapolis, will decide whether to add more punishment as a result of the football program's nine major violations. Fourteen players missed at least one game and seven missed the entire season in 2010 in connection with the investigation, which began in June of last year.

UNC's probe of independent studies courses throughout the College of Arts and Sciences followed reports in The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer about Nyang'oro.

Last summer, athletes accounted for nine of the 10 independent study enrollments under Nyang'oro. Although the NCAA visited campus again last week, it's not clear if the NCAA is interested in the probe of African and Afro-American Studies.

But Hargrove said he expects a full review of any academic irregularities by UNC.

"Chancellor Thorp has assured the board that he will be no less diligent in identifying and correcting deficiencies in the university's academic programs than has been the case in the university's football program," Hargrove said.

ktysiac@charlotteobserver.com or 919-829-8942

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