North Carolina

AD Cunningham: UNC won’t add any self-sanctions

UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham said there was information new to him in report.
UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham said there was information new to him in report. cliddy@newsobserver.com

The NCAA received a copy of the Kenneth Wainstein report Wednesday, but athletic officials at North Carolina have no feel for when the ongoing investigation will conclude.

“I have no idea,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham said when asked what he thought the best-case scenario was. “This investigation lasted longer than we anticipated. I really don’t know.”

Cunningham said UNC would not apply any additional self-sanctions.

“I didn’t see anything in there that would cause us to do anything immediately,” he said. “We’ll work with the NCAA and work through the report with them as part of our ongoing investigation. That’s going to take some time.”

Speaking Tuesday, ACC Commissioner John Swofford said he was hopeful the report would bring closure – something that has been long and drawn out in recent NCAA infractions cases.

“Bringing things to closure from an NCAA standpoint has really gotten to be problematic. That’s one of the issues that the five conferences, particularly, have as we look forward with the NCAA,” he said. “The sheer length of these investigations, it’s really inappropriate for something like that to take as long as it seems to take. There has got to be a better way to address those issues and deal with the problem people and move on.

“It’s a disservice to our institutions, the way that it’s addressed right now and the lack of expediency with it and the seeming inconsistencies that can come with it from case to case.”

David Ridpath, an expert on NCAA compliance issues, saw possible violations detailed in the Wainstein report.

“What is clear is that there are numerous NCAA violations and a clear and convincing case of academic fraud, unethical conduct and lack of institutional control,” he wrote in an email. “I feel that one of our best public institutions sold its soul for the athletics brand, but like anything else the truth wins out and we finally have a clearer picture of what happened. Now the NCAA must take action or simply just admit it cannot police intercollegiate sports.”

UNC asked Wainstein, an independent investigator, to fully brief NCAA investigators on his findings, and Wainstein and his team did so at least three times, according to their report. Based on those briefings, the NCAA reopened the academic fraud case looking into the relationship between athletics and no-show paper classes, UNC announced inJune. The initial investigation, which centered on impermissible benefits and academic fraud within the football team, closed in 2011 and resulted in a postseason ban in 2012 and a loss of scholarships for the team.

The previous investigation did not include interviews or information from former African and Afro-American Studies department chairman Julius Nyang’oro and his assistant, Debby Crowder, the two key architects of the fraud scheme.

Nyang’oro and Crowder were two of the 126 people Wainstein interviewed, and their documents and emails were among the 1.6 million pieces of communication he and his team analyzed. Wainstein found that the Nyang’oro-Crowder paper class scheme lasted from 1993 to 2011, and from 1999 to 2011 involved signing students up for lecture classes that never met (previously, the paper classes had been listed solely as independent studies). From 1999 to 2011 there were 3,933 enrollments in paper classes, 47.6 percent of which were filled by athletes. Of those athletes, 24.5 percent played football or men’s basketball – 963 enrollments from the football team, and 226 from the men’s basketball team.

Some football counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes steered players toward these classes. Men’s basketball academic counselors Burgess McSwain and Wayne Walden, whom Roy Williams brought with him from Kansas in 2003 and left in 2009, were aware of some of the irregular aspects of the classes and routinely called Crowder to arrange classes for their players. Walden said, though, that Williams was unaware of the fraudulent classes and asked former assistant coach Joe Holladay to make sure his players weren’t steered toward that department.

There was information that was new to him in the Wainstein report, Cunningham said.

“We all had some knowledge, but we didn’t know the depth or the breadth,” he said. “You knew stuff, and people who went to school here heard things and all of that. This put all of that, what you heard, locker room chatter, into one document. Here it is.”

After the news conference, Cunningham was asked a question that has been popular with rival fan bases: Is he concerned about the potential retroactive losses of games or championships, such as the two won by men’s basketball in 2005 and 2009?

“That’s really speculative,” he said. “I don’t have any idea.”

And now Cunningham and the rest of the Tar Heels wait.

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