North Carolina

UNC accused of no new major violations in NCAA’s amended notice of allegations

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

For months, the long-running NCAA infractions case at UNC-Chapel Hill had been at a standstill while university officials waited to receive an amended Notice of Allegations from the NCAA. That wait is now over.

UNC on Monday confirmed receipt of the amended notice of allegations (NOA), which again details the results of the NCAA’s investigation into a scheme of paper classes that benefited athletes in disproportionate numbers. Hours later, the university released the amended NOA publicly.

The foremost question during an eight-month wait for the amended NOA was how it would differ from the original NOA that UNC received nearly a year ago, last May. The answer: The amended NOA doesn’t differ much.

The key differences are these: the sports of football and men’s basketball aren’t mentioned in the amended NOA, as they were in the first. And the broad charge of impermissible benefits relating to the suspect African- and Afro-American classes at the heart of the case isn’t in the amended NOA.

During a teleconference on Monday afternoon UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said charges in the amended NOA supersede those in the original. The five charges outlined in the amended NOA are the five charges that UNC faces, regardless of what the original NOA contained.

The most significant charge against UNC, again, is that of a lack of institutional control related to the oversight of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes (ASPSA) and AFAM departments. That charge was also in the first NOA.

Unlike the first NOA, though, the amended NOA did not include a reference to football and men’s basketball amid the lack of institutional control charge. In the first NOA, those sports are specifically referenced for having benefited from the lack of institutional control.

Cunningham declined to speculate on Monday about the significance of the absence of men’s basketball and football in the amended NOA, and whether that decreases the likelihood those sports receive significant NCAA penalties.

“As I mentioned, we have five allegations and speculating on sanctions is just something I cannot do,” he said. “Five level ones, lack of institutional control, failure to monitor – those are significant charges. So, again, I just want to focus on the ones we have in front of us.”

UNC still faces charges of five Level I violations – the most serious the NCAA Enforcement Staff can accuse an institution of committing. The five charges outlined in the amended NOA are as follows:

1. Jan Boxill, the former women’s basketball academic counselor and former director of UNC’s Parr Center for Ethics, is charged with providing extra benefits in the form of impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball players.

2. Debby Crowder, the former AFAM department administrative assistant, is charged with unethical conduct for refusing in 2014 and 2015 to consent to an interview with the NCAA Enforcement Staff about possible rules violations.

3. Julius Nyang’oro, the former AFAM department chairman, is charged with unethical conduct for refusing to consent to an interview with the NCAA about possible rules violations.

4. UNC is charged with failing to monitor the ASPSA and AFAM departments between the fall of 2005 and the summer of 2011.

5. UNC is charged with a lack of institutional control.

The lack of institutional control charge, as well as the charges against Crowder and Nyang’oro, are similar to what was described in the first NOA. So, too, is the charge against Boxill.

That charge, though, was expanded from what was outlined in the first NOA. The case was delayed primarily because UNC discovered additional evidence of wrongdoing related to Boxill.

The university submitted that information, along with evidence of recruiting violations in men’s soccer, to the NCAA in August 2015, days before UNC’s deadline to respond to the original NOA. At the time, Cunningham said he was hopeful that UNC would receive an amended NOA by October.

Instead the university had to wait until Monday.

Another difference in the amended NOA, compared to the original, is the timeline of the alleged wrongdoing. In the original NOA, the lack of institutional control charge references a span of 18 years – from 1993 through 2011 – in which UNC allowed abuse of the suspect AFAm courses to go unchecked.

In the amended NOA, though, the lack of institutional control charge references the suspect AFAM courses that “went unchecked for at least six years.” The failure to monitor charge, meanwhile, covers a span of six years – from the fall of 2005 to the summer of 2011.

The new timeline appears to reduce the likelihood that UNC’s 2005 men’s basketball national championship is in danger of being vacated. The timeline outlined in the amended NOA begins just after UNC won that championship.

One of the central questions of the case has been whether UNC will be forced to vacate men’s basketball national championships.

Ten members of UNC’s 2005 national championship team, for instance, majored in AFAM. By the 2008-09 academic year, when UNC won its second national championship under coach Roy Williams, men’s basketball players’ enrollments in the suspect AFAM classes had declined considerably.

Even so, under Williams men’s basketball players accounted for 167 enrollments in the suspect AFAM classes that are at the heart of the case. The act of being enrolled in one of the suspect courses, though, did not constitute a violation, according to the first NOA. That remained the case in the amended NOA.

Now UNC will have another 90 days to respond to the amended NOA, as it did the first time. The university was days away the deadline to respond when it submitted that new information to the NCAA, which halted the case. There hadn’t been a public development in the investigation until Monday, when the NCAA finally sent its amended NOA to UNC.

“The only explanation is this is maybe the most complicated, involved case in history,” Cunningham said. “Certainly in our history. And there has been a lot of reporting. There’s been a lot of investigations, multiple investigations and the NCAA is now completing their work by issuing the amended notice. It’s voluminous in nature and it’s over an extended period of time. So I think the volume and the time is probably why it has lasted this long.”

In the first NOA the NCAA’s Enforcement Staff charged UNC with five Level I violations, including a lack of institutional control and providing athletes with impermissible benefits related to the suspect African- and Afro-American (AFAM) Studies courses that are at the heart of the case.

UNC also faced allegations of wrongdoing specifically related to the actions of three former employees.

Nyang’oro, the former AFAM department chair, and Crowder were charged with unethical conduct. Boxill, a former philosophy instructor and director of the Parr Center for Ethics, was charged with providing extra benefits and improper help to women’s basketball players during her time as the team’s academic counselor.

The most significant charge that UNC faced in the first NOA was that of a lack of institutional control. The enforcement staff charged UNC with a lack of institutional control for failing to monitor Boxill’s activities, and also for failing to monitor the AFAM and athletic academic support departments.

One frequently-cited portion of the first NOA described how UNC football and basketball players benefited from the long-running scheme of suspect AFAM classes:

“The AFRI/AFAM department created anomalous courses that went unchecked for 18 years. This allowed individuals within ASPSA (the academic support program for student-athletes) to use these courses through special arrangements to maintain the eligibility of academically at-risk student-athletes, particularly in the sports of football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.”

Despite that language, though, the sports of men’s basketball and football weren’t charged with specific allegations of wrongdoing. And neither was anyone – head coaches, assistant coaches, academic support staff members – associated with those teams.

Boxill, the former women’s basketball academic counselor, was the only individual who worked directly with a team to be cited for misconduct in the first NOA. The enforcement staff in the first NOA also treated UNC’s case as one that revolved around impermissible benefits – and not academic fraud.

It was unclear on Monday whether the amended NOA cited additional individuals for wrongdoing, or whether it expanded the scope of the case to include academic fraud. Another key question is whether the amended NOA charges UNC for using ineligible athletes in competition.

That was one of the main questions surrounding the arrival of the first NOA: whether the athletes who received the impermissible benefits described in the document were therefore made ineligible by the receipt of those alleged benefits.

If UNC is found to have used ineligible athletes in competition, it would increase the likelihood that the university is forced to vacate past victories and championships. One of the central questions of the case has been whether UNC will be forced to vacate men’s basketball national championships.

Ten members of UNC’s 2005 national championship team, for instance, majored in AFAM. By the 2008-09 academic year, when UNC won its second national championship under coach Roy Williams, men’s basketball players’ enrollments in the suspect AFAM classes had declined considerably.

Even so, under Williams men’s basketball players accounted for 167 enrollments in the suspect AFAM classes that are at the heart of the case. Those classes began in 1993, according to Kenneth Wainstein’s independent investigation, and ended in 2011.

The NCAA has used the same timeframe for its investigation. The act of being enrolled in one of the suspect courses, though, did not constitute a violation, according to the first NOA.

How much the amended NOA differs is now a primary question in the case.

After UNC received the first NOA on May 20, 2015, it took 15 days – until June 4 – for the university to release a public version of the document.

The receipt of the amended NOA ends a long, confounding wait that had halted the progress of an NCAA investigation that began in June 2014. The new NOA, though, is not an end point as much as it is a new beginning to a case that still has several steps to go before a resolution is reached.

UNC now has another 90 days to respond to the amended NOA, as the university had when it received the original NOA. It’s unclear whether UNC will take the full 90 days to respond.

After UNC submits its response, whenever it might come, the NCAA then has approximately one month to respond to that response, at which time it will set a date for UNC to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which is the judge and jury in NCAA infractions cases.

After UNC’s appearance before the infractions committee it could take another three months, at least, for the committee to announce the penalties and sanctions UNC would face. At that point UNC could appeal the Committee on Infractions’ ruling.

A final resolution, then, is still several months away and the case will likely stretch into 2017.

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