North Carolina

Here’s what UNC’s response to the NCAA’s latest notice of allegations says

UNC academic scandal explained

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was extensively investigated by the NCAA for a system of fake classes taken by thousands of students, roughly half of them athletes, that spanned three decades.
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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was extensively investigated by the NCAA for a system of fake classes taken by thousands of students, roughly half of them athletes, that spanned three decades.

UNC-Chapel Hill on Thursday released a public version of its most recent response to the NCAA, which the university submitted on May 16.

Here are the highlights of UNC’s response:

▪  The university is arguing, as it has in the past, that the problems related to the African Studies courses at the heart of the NCAA investigation are not subject to NCAA bylaws. UNC’s accrediting agency found those courses to be fraudulent, but the university maintains that the classes don’t constitute a violation of NCAA rules.

▪  UNC summarizes its basic argument in the first paragraph of the response, which is 102 pages: “The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that the Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (the “University”) took advantage of “fake classes” in the Department of African and African-American Studies (the “Department”) to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.”

▪  UNC argues that the classes in question were equally available to all students, athletes and non-athletes, and that those who took the classes worked for their grades: “No special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation … student-athletes were not treated differently than other students who took the Courses. All students who took the Courses were required to write one or more research papers.”

▪  UNC maintains that no one in the athletic department took “improper advantage” of the classes. The university reiterates that there is no NCAA allegation against any coach of athletic department employee.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams talks about the allegations against UNC during press conference Sunday, April 2, 2017, before the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship national championship game at the University of Phoenix Stadium

▪  UNC is attempting to convince the NCAA that this case has been unfairly and inaccurately portrayed in media reports. From the response: “A challenge for this Panel will be to make a decision on the record and to avoid being influenced by media reports, commentary from various sources (including Mark Emmert, the President of the NCAA) and the investigative reports that reviewed these matters from perspectives unrelated to whether there have been NCAA rules violations.”

▪  The NCAA in its most recent Notice of Allegations accused UNC of violating “the principles of ethical conduct and extra-benefit legislation” in relation to the courses. UNC’s response to that allegation: “Because the issue of the Courses is an academic issue, the University denies that there were NCAA violations.”

▪  On the origin of the African Studies classes in question, UNC argues that they weren’t created for the benefit of athletes but instead “originated from Professor (Julius) Nyang’oro’s and Ms. (Deborah) Crowder’s desire to assist students of all kinds with a wide variety of challenges and interests.

▪  UNC’s response argues that Crowder was not motivated solely by a desire to assist athletes but to “assist all students who had personal issues or were facing bureaucratic problems by creating educational opportunities.”

▪  UNC contends that some of the data presented in the widely-cited Wainstein report, which was released in October of 2014, was incorrect. Wainstein asserted athletes accounted for nearly half of the enrollment in the suspect African Studies courses. According to UNC’s response, athletes accounted for 29.4 percent of the enrollments.

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.

▪  A key point of UNC’s response is that athletes worked to earn their grades in these classes. From the response: “The record contains significant evidence of work done by student-athletes in the Courses. Their ASPSA academic counselors, who assisted with that work during the semester, reported that the student-athletes who took the Courses typically prepared an abstract and outline, performed research and, over the course of weeks of work, drafted a 20- to 25-page paper with citations and quotations to scholarly sources and containing a works cited page.”

▪  For the first time, UNC compared its case to similar cases at Auburn and Michigan. UNC made that comparison when it noted that the NCAA Enforcement Staff declined to investigate the African Studies class for more than two years, from 2011 to 2013. From the response: The enforcement staff’s “conclusions were consistent with similar situations at Auburn University and the University of Michigan regarding classes remarkably like the ones at the University.”

This is a developing story that will continue to be updated ...

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter