North Carolina athletics director Bubba Cunningham said Wednesday he had communicated with all of his coaches, and none had prevented any of their athletes from meeting with civil-rights historian Taylor Branch, a visiting professor at UNC and activist for NCAA reform.
At an on-campus forum Tuesday night, Branch said athletes had been instructed not to talk to him by their coaches. During the Q&A portion of the event, a man identifying himself as a UNC graduate challenged Cunningham, who attended the event but did not intend to participate, to allow his athletes to speak to Branch.
"I was concerned a great deal when I heard it, and I had no way to respond on the spot," Cunningham said. "Last night, I talked to Roy (Williams) and Larry Fedora, just checking on football and basketball to make sure it didn't happen. Both of them assured me it did not.
"Today I emailed all of our coaches. I took the quote out of the article and said, 'This is what was said. Give me some feedback. Give me some positive affirmation that we haven't done this.' Every single coach responded."
Cunningham said he spoke with Branch on Wednesday, and Branch told him his statement was based on information from another professor, not an athlete.
Tuesday night, Branch said: "I've been told within the last 48 hours here that athletes who want to come talk to me about the equities of college sports here in Chapel Hill cannot come see me even privately, because their coaches won't let them. This is not a place of free enquiry, which is what it should be, if you have that kind of control vested in people who are not even on the faculty of this university."
Branch did not immediately respond to an email Wednesday night.