Within the 732 pages of information the NCAA included with its notice of allegations to North Carolina lies the evidence against the Tar Heels.
Even with names redacted, hundreds of emails show how the paper class scheme was run to benefit student-athletes in several sports, allowing them to receive academic credit for little to no work.
And often that involved some “creativity” on the part of Deborah Crowder, the main organizer of the paper class scheme in the African and Afro-American Studies department, and the academic counselors for specific teams.
“You may be asking for more creativity than I can muster,” Crowder warned former academic coordinator for football Cynthia Reynolds on a November 2002 request.
Reynolds emailed Crowder with a request for a senior, who needed four AFAM classes to graduate, to take independent courses in the spring.
“Thanks for your help and idea’s (sic), Debbie,” Reynolds wrote.
“Occasionally when we have a number of people with special issues we can put them together in a special section but we never ever put an athlete into a special section alone – just too many red flags and we have a little bit of academic credibility to try to uphold,” Crowder wrote back. “All of that being said, talk to me and we’ll see if there are any creative options.”
Crowder had fewer options when two football players turned in the exact same paper to her. She let them know she was unhappy in an undated email titled, “Debby is extremely disappointed.”
“You know you two are some of my favorites – I am sitting here staring at two ABSOLUTELY IDENTICAL papers for AFAM,” she wrote. “I don’t know who copied from whom, or more likely, where both of you got the paper. I need new papers from both of you by the end of next week. Pick a particular African American woman, not Oprah, and write about her significance to the black community. Yes, I have my feelings hurt. This department, and I personally, have always, always tried to give you guys the benefit of the doubt, and this is an insult, more specifically, a slap in the face.”
When Crowder delayed her 2009 retirement by a month, staying on to help the department through the beginning of the semester, that was cause for celebration among the football academic counselors.
“I am sorry that you have to stay longer, but it is definitely good news for our knuckleheads!” wrote Jaimie Lee, a football academic counselor.
The evidence extends beyond football and beyond Crowder, too. Jan Boxill, the former chair of the faculty, philosophy professor and women’s basketball academic counselor, sent plenty of emails, including one in which she asked Crowder for a D on a student-athlete’s paper despite noting it was off topic and recycled from another class.
Boxill is most closely tied to women’s basketball, but in a July 2005 email, Boxill wrote to men’s basketball tutor Janet Huffstetler about helping men’s basketball players with their quizzes in her class (which the NCAA noted are types of impermissible benefits not available to the general student body).
“Also, if they want to bring me their quizzes for me to look at I will, because I found mistakes on others,” Boxill wrote. “I met with the TA, but I think she may have been a bit harsh on some quizzes.”
Boxill also indicated in a June 2009 email that she thought men’s basketball coach Roy Williams would be “grateful” if she applied to be the new men’s basketball academic counselor, replacing Wayne Walden.
“Yes, I have been seriously thinking about the men’s job,” Boxill wrote to Huffstetler. “I actually think Roy and (former assistant coach) Joe (Holladay) would be grateful if did apply.
“And the only other person they feel comfortable with is Mary Willingham. Mary said if I took the job she would stay to work with them, but she is looking for another job as well.”
Williams has on several occasions said that he does not recall speaking to Willingham, the former tutor-turned-whistleblower.
Emails from athletes to counselors were also cited in the NCAA’s allegations.
In one undated email, a female athlete wrote Crowder and said that she and two teammates were overwhelmed academically and were instructed by academic counselor Brent Blanton to “throw ourselves at your mercy and see if there is any way we could get an Independent study in the Afam department.”
Also among the the collection of emails, women’s soccer head coach Anson Dorrance is the only head coach that has email correspondence included in the NCAA report.
Dorrance talked to recruits about the potential to take independent studies – in an email with the date redacted, Dorrance emailed Blanton about a potential recruit’s schedule.
Blanton wrote to him that “AFRI/AFAM offers several independent study courses that will either fulfill an elective or a possible Arts & Science perspective course. Ms. Debbie Crowder has been a valuable asset in this department as many of your young ladies have taken advantage of these classes for years.”
“Perfect Brent…thank you!” Dorrance replied.
The paper classes were “infamous,” to borrow the term used by former associate athletics director for compliance Amy Herman in an email to Blanton about a female student-athlete in May 2008.
“Have you gotten (redacted) in a 2nd session class? If so, is it an online class? Don’t think so - probably one of your infamous ‘paper courses.’ Let me know,” Herman wrote.
“Don’t knock what gets it done,” Blanton replied. “I saw her today, so I should get her registered today.”
“So it IS a ‘paper course’? :-)” Herman responded.
“I’m not saying it is,” Blanton responded, “and I’m not saying it isn’t.”