North Carolina

UNC response to NCAA notice of allegations due Tuesday

UNC academic scandal explained

UNC-CH is in the midst of an NCAA investigation into a system of fake classes taken by thousands of students, roughly half of them athletes, that spanned three decades. As the university awaits its punishment, the News & Observer explains how the
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UNC-CH is in the midst of an NCAA investigation into a system of fake classes taken by thousands of students, roughly half of them athletes, that spanned three decades. As the university awaits its punishment, the News & Observer explains how the

Tuesday is the deadline for UNC-Chapel Hill and three people involved in the academic fraud scandal to respond to the NCAA’s latest notice of allegations.

Greg Sankey, the chairman of the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions and the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, set that deadline in a letter April 14 in which he said there would be no further extensions in the case. If that holds true, a hearing is likely in mid-August, which would be six years after The News & Observer’s discovery of a football player’s transcript outed years of bogus classes.

The notice of allegations in this case has gone through three iterations, and the latest is the toughest. It adds allegations of unethical conduct and impermissible benefits against the two creators of the classes – former African and Afro-American Studies chairman Julius Nyang’oro and his longtime administrative assistant, Deborah Crowder. Those allegations undergird the notice’s biggest charge – a lack of institutional control against UNC.

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Deborah Crowder

The scandal involves 18 years of bogus classes that athletes – particularly in the revenue sports of football and men’s basketball – took disproportionately. The classes had no instruction and typically provided a high grade for a term paper; most of them were created and graded by Crowder before she retired in 2009.

More than 3,100 students took at least one class, according an investigation led by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein. Roughly half were athletes, who make up 4 percent of the student body.

“Although general students also took the anomalous classes, Crowder and Nyang’oro worked closely and directly with athletics,” the NCAA’s notice said.

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Julius Nyang'oro Harry Lynch News & Observer file photo

UNC had largely made procedural arguments to try to shoot down the NCAA’s case as it relates to the sham classes. But the infractions committee rejected those arguments in a special hearing six months ago.

The latest delay in the case stemmed from Crowder’s decision to be interviewed by NCAA investigators. That took place last week. Crowder had declined the NCAA’s interview requests over the prior three years.

Crowder is a big fan of UNC athletics, particularly its men’s basketball team, but she said in an affidavit that the classes she created and graded were legitimate and that she was trying to help all students. She also contends Nyang’oro initially graded the papers for the classes, and she took that task over because he was traveling frequently.

Nyang’oro so far has not sought to fight the allegations made against him. Jan Boxill, a former faculty leader and academic adviser to the women’s basketball team, is also accused of providing improper academic help. She also contends what she did was proper.

Investigator Kenneth Wainstein describes a lack of oversight by UNC while outlining his investigation into academic issues and athletics. Wainstein was presenting his findings during a 2014 press conference held by UNC.

Kenneth Wainstein, a former top U.S. Justice Department official, found that the academic counselors had pushed for the easy classes and embraced those started by Deborah Crowder, a longtime manager for the Department of African and Afro-American

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