UNC Scandal

Wainstein’s request for interview draws a threat from former UNC football counselor

UNC interim head coach Everett Withers applauds Giovani Bernard's 55-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech on Saturday September 24, 2011 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.
UNC interim head coach Everett Withers applauds Giovani Bernard's 55-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter against Georgia Tech on Saturday September 24, 2011 at Bobby Dodd Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. 2011 News & Observer file photo

Kenneth Wainstein said his team had full cooperation from UNC-Chapel Hill and its employees as they investigated athletic and academic fraud at the university.

“The absolute vast majority of people cooperated with us,” Wainstein said Wednesday.

One of exceptions was Cynthia Reynolds, who oversaw the tutoring of football players for the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes from 2002-2010.

Reynolds did not just refuse to talk. She threatened to call the police on investigators.

When she was first contacted in April, Reynolds refused to speak with Wainstein’s team. They wrote back; she refused again. Investigators really wanted to talk with her because she was a key participant in the scandal as the lead football counselor when enrollment in the fraudulent classes peaked.

The investigators wrote to her boss at Cornell, where she now works, asking for help in arranging an interview.

Reynolds responded through a lawyer: Any further attempts to contact her would be “construed as harassment and reported to the police accordingly.”

Wainstein’s team conducted 126 interviews; only five people refused to cooperate.

“The counselor played a very major role, and we were disappointed that she didn’t talk with us,” Wainstein said, referring to Reynolds.

But emails, memos and interviews showed how Reynolds worked to steer football players into the fraudulent classes to keep the players eligible and on the playing field.

Reynolds not only sought out the classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, she told departmental administrator Deborah Crowder what grades the football players needed to stay active.

“According to Crowder, Reynolds routinely provided her at the beginning of each semester with a list of the football players registered in her paper classes and the grade that each player needed to remain in good standing,” the report said. “Crowder said that she ignored the grade suggestions, knowing full well that she would award any student who submitted a paper with a fairly high grade.”

This high-grade trend ended when Crowder retired in 2009.

Reynolds and her staff “were also painfully aware that Crowder’s retirement would require the whole football program to adjust to a new reality of having to meet academic requirements with real academic work,” the report said.

“Ms. Crowder is retiring at the end of July,” Reynolds wrote to a subordinate in 2009. “If the guys papers are not in I would expect D’s or C’s at best. Most need better than that.”

Reynolds did not respond Wednesday to email and phone calls requesting an interview.

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