Who's who in the UNC-Chapel Hill investigation

dkane@newsobserver.comDecember 19, 2012 

Here’s a who’s who of key individuals in the UNC-Chapel Hill academic fraud investigation:

Julius Nyang’oro: Chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies for nearly 20 years. He resigned from the position in August 2011 as the university first began acknowledging “academic irregularities,” and then was forced to retire in July following an internal probe that identified 54 lecture-style classes that never met and a lack of accountability for hundreds of independent study enrollments.

Deborah Crowder: Nyang’oro’s former departmental manager. She retired in September 2009 after 30 years with UNC-CH. UNC reports have said that she may have created some of the no-show classes, helped athletes sign up for them and submitted grades on students’ behalf. She has declined to comment and did not cooperate with an internal investigation.

Robert Mercer: Former director of the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes. Mercer was quietly moved out of that position after reports began indicating that the program was working with Nyang’oro and Crowder to place athletes in no-show classes. In early 2007, he was tasked with tracking independent studies taken by athletes following a scandal involving such courses at Auburn University. Before then, athletes were enrolling in such courses offered by the African studies department in higher-than-expected numbers, but top administrators say they were never told that.

Wayne Walden: Coach Roy Williams brought Walden from the University of Kansas to be the basketball team’s academic counselor. He has acknowledged having a hard time finding classes for athletes, but said he saw nothing unusual about African studies department classes or Nyang’oro. He now works for a health care company in Texas.

Jennifer Townsend: She replaced Walden as the academic counselor to the men’s basketball team in the summer of 2009. According to Mary Willingham, a former readiing specialist within the academic support program for athletes, Townsend was appalled to learn about the no-show classes and did not want the basketball players in them. They did not show up in subsequent no-show classes. She has not talked publicly about the classes.

Marvin Austin: A star football recruit, Austin took an upper-level African studies class and received a B-plus before he enrolled as a full-time freshman taking remedial writing. This discovery prompted an internal probe that found the class, and 53 others over the past four years, never met, even though they were listed as lecture-style classes. Austin was kicked off the team in a previous NCAA investigation into improper financial benefits. He now plays for the New York Giants.

Michael McAdoo: Kicked off the team for receiving improper financial benefits and for receiving improper academic help from a university tutor, McAdoo sued to regain his eligibility. His lawsuit included the term paper he wrote for a Swahili class; NCAA officials claimed the tutor wrote the footnotes and bibliography. But rival N.C. State fans discovered the paper was also filled with plagiarism. The class was later found to be a no-show that listed Nyang’oro as the instructor.

Julius Peppers: One of the most popular athletes in UNC history, Peppers was a football and basketball star from 1999 to 2001. But his transcript, which UNC had left on its website, showed his grade point average never reached a 2.0 by the time he entered his fourth year. It also showed he had received nearly all of his best grades from African studies classes; those class sections, when taught in later years, were found to be suspect. He would not have been eligible to play sports without them.

Erik Highsmith: A wide receiver for UNC, Highsmith drew infamy after The N&O reported that he had plagiarized twice in a failed attempt to complete assignments for a communications class blog in 2011. One of his blog posts closely resembled a passage from a website written by 11-year-olds. The plagiarism did not cost him any playing time. UNC officials offered no explanation.

Tyler Hansbrough: A popular basketball player who led UNC to the 2009 NCAA championship, Hansbrough was one of six players enrolled in a Naval Weapons Systems class that had no exams or term paper. An academic counselor put the players in the class after the instructor paid a visit. The chairman of the Naval department later told instructors to return to tests and papers after becoming concerned the class no longer had academic accountability.

Tami Hansbrough: Mother of Tyler Hansbrough. During his senior year, UNC-CH’s dental school foundation hired her as a fundraiser. She later took on a similar job under the vice chancellor for student affairs. She resigned after UNC-CH officials confirmed that she and the university’s top fundraiser, Matt Kupec, were in a relationship and taking trips at university expense that were personal driven. Some of those trips were to cities where her sons, Tyler and Ben, were playing basketball. Kupec also resigned.

Matt Kupec: A former star quarterback for UNC who became the vice chancellor for university advancement, Kupec resigned Sept. 10 after an investigation had begun into university travel he had taken with Tami Hansbrough. Kupec was in a relationship with Hansbrough, the divorced mother of star basketball player Tyler Hansbrough, and arranged to have her hired as a fundraiser in the student affairs office. An audit later showed he and Hansbrough had taken trips considered personal in nature, including to cities where Tyler and another son, Ben, a Notre Dame star, were playing basketball.

John Blanchard: A senior associate athletic director at UNC-CH who has been in charge of student athlete services. The academic support program for student athletes reported to him as well as the College of Arts & Sciences. That reporting requirement to the athletic department has since been severed.

Mary Willingham: A reading specialist within the academic support program for athletes for roughly seven years, Willingham left in 2010 to work in another area of academic support. She told the N&O that she met athletes who told her they had never read a book and did not know what a paragraph was, and said the no-show classes were used to help keep academically challenged athletes eligible to play sports.

Beth Bridger: An associate director of the academic support program, Bridger serves as an academic counselor to the football team. An email shows she told a tutor not to worry about the quality of work by football players. “Just remember,” she said. “guys are in this class for a reason – at-risk, probation, struggling students – you are making headway … keep it positive and encouraging!”

Roy Williams: A UNC-CH graduate and Hall of Fame basketball coach, Williams returned to Carolina in 2003 and has since won two NCAA championships. He has declined to provide specifics about his players’ taking no-show classes, but said in general that “serious mistakes” were made.

Butch Davis: The former football coach was fired after an NCAA investigation into players accepting financial benefits from agents and their go-betweens, as well as improper academic help from a tutor who also taught his son. Davis has said he had no knowledge of the no-show classes, which began before he became coach, and did not know Nyang’oro.

Dick Baddour: The former athletic director retired early after the NCAA investigation. He recently acknowledged that there were concerns with higher-than-expected independent study enrollments by athletes in the African studies department, but said the Faculty Committee on Athletics said there was no issue with them. The enrollments dropped dramatically after the enrollments were discussed in 2006, with only one men’s basketball player taking an independent study in the next five years.

Holden Thorp: A chemistry professor and UNC-CH graduate, Thorp rose through the ranks to become chancellor in 2008. Prior to that he was the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. The academic scandal, along with a travel scandal in the fundraising department, led him to announce his resignation in August, effective at the end of this academic year. Thorp has said he will spend his final months righting the university after two years of athletic-related scandal, but in recent weeks his promises of tougher admission standards for athletes were brushed aside by athletic officials.

Bobbi Owen: The senior associate dean for undergraduate education, Owen oversees UNC's academic support programs, including the one for athletes. Mary Willingham, a former reading specialist for the athletes' academic support, said Owen became concerned about enrollments in independent studies in the African studies department about five years ago. Enrollments in the department plummeted at about that time, especially for men's basketball players, but there's little indication her concerns reached top administrators.

Jan Boxill: The chairwoman of the faculty council, Boxill was the first nontenured professor to win that post. She has said little as new details of the academic fraud emerged. She is a former academic counselor in the academic support program for athletes, and has served as a radio commentator for women’s basketball games.

Wade Hargrove: A media lawyer for the Brooks Pierce law firm in Raleigh, Hargrove is chairman of UNC-CH’s Board of Trustees. Concerns about its response to the scandal helped prompt a special Board of Governors’ panel to oversee UNC-CH’s internal investigation.

Peter Hans: The chairman of the UNC Board of Governors. A UNC-CH graduate, he is a senior policy adviser for the Nelson Mullins law firm and a politically connected Republican who worked for prominent politicians Lauch Faircloth, Richard Burr and Elizabeth Dole. He has pledged to get to the bottom of the academic fraud scandal.

Mark Emmert: The NCAA president since Nov. 1, 2010, and a former college administrator who led the University of Washington and Louisiana State University in the past decade. After the NCAA said in August that it saw no violations in the academic fraud, drawing national criticism, Emmert stepped back from that position weeks later to say the association was monitoring UNC and SBI investigations that might produce information that could lead to potential violations.

Jim Woodall: The Orange County district attorney in charge of a criminal investigation into the academic fraud. He has said that an investigation that was expected to be completed in October now won’t be finished until sometime next year.

Jim Martin: A former governor and U.S. congressman, Martin was tapped in August to determine how far back the academic irregularities within the African studies department go. Martin, a former chemistry professor at Davidson College, is not searching for potential NCAA violations, nor is he reviewing the work turned in by students who took no-show classes and suspect independent studies.

Tom Ross: Installed as UNC system president last year, he is a UNC-CH law school graduate who later became a judge and president of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, a prominent philanthropic nonprofit in North Carolina. Ross initially was content to let UNC-CH manage the academic fraud scandal, but later announced an oversight panel.

Louis Bissette: An Asheville lawyer who formerly served as the city’s mayor, Bissette is a UNC Board of Governors member tapped to lead a special panel reviewing UNC-CH’s internal investigation.

Jennifer Wiley: A former tutor in the academic support program that the NCAA found had provided improper help on football players’ papers. She left the program in 2009 and was told to stay away from the team after athletic officials became concerned she was too friendly with the players. Former reading specialist Mary Willingham said she reported Wiley to her superiors for providing improper help in 2008, but saw no effort to investigate.

Jay Smith: A history professor at UNC-CH since 1990, he is an expert on the French Revolution and has become the most outspoken faculty member for academic integrity in the wake of the scandal. He leads a group of faculty pressing for more information about what happened and more reforms at the university and national levels to keep it from happening again.

Alphonse Mutima: A non-tenured Swahili instructor at UNC-CH since 1999. Internal documents said that he wanted a football player who struggled with the language to take a no-show class.

Lt. Brian Lubitz: While working toward his MBA at UNC-CH, Lubitz taught classes for the Naval ROTC program. He invited athletes into his Naval Weapons Systems class, and records show 30 of 38 enrollments were athletes, including six members of the basketball team. The class drew criticism for having no tests or term papers, and the average grade was just under an A-minus.

Lissa Broome: A UNC-CH law professor, Broome led the Faculty Committee on Athletics for several years before becoming the university’s faculty representative to the ACC and NCAA. Broome was in charge when the committee asked if there was reason to be concerned about independent studies at UNC-CH after a scandal involving those classes at Auburn University in 2006. The committee assigned that task to academic support officials, and minutes show no one saw a problem.

Harold Woodard: An associate dean, he is serving as the interim director for the athletes’ academic support program. He told a UNC Board of Governors panel at an October meeting that some tutors had provided “overhelp” to athletes that has now ceased.

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