Julius Peppers on Saturday acknowledged that a transcript bearing his name that had been posted on the University of North Carolina website did in fact belong to him.
But Peppers defended his academic record and said he legitimately earned his grades, good or bad.
“I can assure everyone that there is no academic fraud as it relates to my college transcript,” Peppers said in a statement released by his agent, Carl Carey Jr.
An All-American football player during his time at UNC, Peppers responded to what he described in his statement as “false allegations regarding my connection to an academic scandal within the University of North Carolina athletic and African-American Studies departments.”
Peppers entered UNC in the fall of 1998 and ended his first semester with a 1.08 GPA. He majored in African and Afro-American Studies, but never graduated and left the school after the 2001 football season to enter the NFL, where he became an all-pro player with the Carolina Panthers.
Peppers’ transcript shows that he was barely eligible to play throughout his time at UNC, and the transcript calls into question the quality of his education. He made D’s or F’s in 11 classes and never had a cumulative GPA higher than 1.95.
But Peppers, now a defensive end with the Chicago Bears, made B’s in more than half the AFAM courses he took. UNC’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies has been embroiled in controversy since an internal university investigation identified 54 aberrant courses between 2007 and 2011.
The problems in the AFAM classes, described by the university as “academic fraud,” include classes that were expected to include lectures but that actually did not meet and required only a paper at the end of the semester. The university also found unauthorized grade changes and other forged records.
Athletes, particularly football and men’s basketball players, made up a high percentage of the enrollments in many of those 54 classes.
Peppers’ statement does not specifically address whether four courses on his transcript that were identified in later years as no-show classes actually met. But Peppers, who also played basketball at UNC, defended his academic record.
“I took every course with qualified members of the UNC faculty and I earned every grade whether it was good or bad,” he said. “I was never given unapproved assistance or preferential treatment in terms of my academic career because I was a student-athlete.
“I was also never deemed ineligible to compete on any of the football or basketball teams.”
Peppers’ transcript became public after it was inexplicably posted on an obscure page of UNC’s website. After The News & Observer published what UNC had originally described as a “test transcript,” which had also been available on UNC’s site, N.C. State fans discovered a link to Peppers’ transcript, and it spread quickly on the Internet.
UNC removed both transcripts, which were nearly identical. The test transcript showed a B-plus in an AFAM course in the spring of 2001 for which Peppers’ transcript originally showed an incomplete. That grade, plus an A on the test transcript in another AFAM course that summer, would have improved Peppers’ GPA enough for him to be eligible to play football in 2001, his final season at UNC.
Peppers described the past week as “upsetting and challenging” because his transcript had become public.
“I’m terribly disappointed in the fact that my privacy has been violated,” he said, “as well as frustrated with whoever negligently and carelessly committed such a flagrant error.”