Football and basketball players accounted for nearly four of every 10 students enrolled in 54 classes at the heart of an academic fraud investigation at UNC Chapel Hill, according to figures released Monday.
The classes were all within UNCs Department of African and Afro-American studies. An internal probe released Friday produced evidence of unauthorized grade changes and little or no instruction by professors.
Forty-five of the classes listed the departments chairman, Julius Nyangoro, as the professor. Investigators could not determine instructors for the remaining nine.
University officials say they found no evidence that the suspect classes were part of a plan between Nyangoro and the athletic department to create classes that student-athletes could pass so they could maintain their eligibility. They said student-athletes were treated no differently in the classes than students who were not athletes.
But the high percentages of student-athletes in the classes suggest to some that academic advisers and others may have guided them to the classes.
These kids are putting in enormous amounts of time, and in at least some of the sports that are very physically demanding, they are missing a number of classes because of conflicts, and then if they are a marginal student to begin with, youve got to send them to Professor Nyangoros class, said former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr.
I think the academic counselors realized that and the tutors recognized it and frankly the folks up the food chain for the most part recognized it. But nobody wants to rock the boat because its big money.
Orr, is an attorney who helped restore a UNC football players eligibility to play amid the NCAAs probe into impermissible financial and academic benefits to football team members. The internal academic probe is an offshoot of that investigation.
36% from football, 3% from basketball
There were 686 enrollments for the 54 suspect classes. Of those, football players accounted for 246 of the enrollments, or 36 percent, while basketball players accounted for 23 enrollments, or three percent, according to UNC. Together, football and basketball players accounted for 39 percent of the enrollments.
Football and basketball players account for less than one percent of the total undergraduate enrollment about 120 of the more than 18,500 undergraduate students on campus. On the other hand, many of the suspect classes were held in the summer, when many football players are on campus.
UNC has spent millions of dollars beefing up academic support for student-athletes. The athletic department has its own advisers who help choose classes for athletes and monitor their performance. The department also has tutors for the student-athletes.
The News & Observer obtained the academic transcript of former football player Marvin Austin, who was kicked off the team after the NCAA probe found he had received improper financial benefits from a sports agent. Austins transcript showed he had been placed in an upper-level African studies class taught by Nyangoro in summer 2007. At that point, Austin had yet to begin his first full semester as a freshman.
Nyangoro gave Austin a B-plus in the 400 level class. The university has been unable to explain how Austin ended up in the class. He could not be reached for comment. UNCs investigation determined it was one of the suspect classes in which there was little evidence that the instructor did much if any teaching.
Questions regarding Nyangoros instruction started after another football player kicked off the team, Michael McAdoo, had made public a class paper that got him in trouble. N.C. State University fans found several plagiarized passages that the university and the NCAA did not catch.
The investigation covered courses offered within the department from the summer of 2007 to the summer of 2011, though all but two of the classes were offered from 2007 to 2009. UNC officials said the only two people within the department who appear to have been responsible for the suspect classes are Nyangoro and his administrative secretary, Deborah Crowder. Some professors interviewed for the probe said they did not authorize grade changes that students taking the classes had received and said their names had been forged on academic records.
An isolated situation
Crowder retired in September 2009 and declined requests for interviews by the investigators. Nyangoro stepped down as chairman in September when the investigation was in its early stages. He is retiring July 1. Investigators found no evidence showing Nyangoro or Crowder received any financial benefit from offering the suspect classes or for unauthorized grade changes that students received. Neither Nyangoro nor Crowder has publicly commented on the report.
On Friday, university officials couldnt say why no one brought the suspect classes to their attention before last summer. On Monday, Tom Ross, the UNC system president, said in a statement that he saw no need to look further into the academic improprieties. I believe that this was an isolated situation and that the campus has taken appropriate steps to correct problems and put additional safeguards in place, Ross said.