UNC-Chapel Hill athletic officials downplayed the impact of a tutor’s help on a football player’s paper while trying to get him reinstated by the NCAA, according to documents released late Wednesday.
The documents, heavily censored by the university, were first requested by The News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer in 2010 but were released only after a lawsuit by the two papers and several other media organizations. Much of the information released Wednesday relates to circumstances already widely known as a result of other records obtained and reported in the course of the investigation and through NCAA action taken in March.
But there were some new details.
One document shows that a tutor, who has been widely identified as Jennifer Wiley of Durham, was contacted by a football player who needed help with a 10-page paper. The year it happened was redacted from the document. So was the player’s name.
“Please help,” the player wrote to the tutor. “I’m going down. :-( ”
The player attached a paper that was six double-spaced pages, according to the document. The tutor emailed back later with a note that the paper was now 8.5 pages, with only a little bit more to go.
“I looked over your paper,” she wrote, “and expanded it in a lot of areas!!!”
The university took the position, according to the documents, that it was difficult to tell what changes the tutor had made, saying there was “no direct information” that the tutor had made any changes based on emails it could retrieve. UNC suggested that formatting changes were the reason for the different lengths, and the player said that the tutor didn’t write any part of the paper. Wiley has been silent.
“(T)he exact nature of the assistance provided ... despite the language in her email, is not conclusive,” wrote then-athletics director Dick Baddour in a memo to the NCAA sometime in 2010. The exact date was deleted.
Baddour wanted the athlete to be able to play football again, listing “multiple” reasons for why what happened wasn’t academic fraud. One of them was completely blanked out from the documents.
Plenty of redactions
Of more than 200 pages that were released Wednesday, many are indecipherable due to redactions, or deletions, made by the university, which says that under federal law, it must cleanse the records of information that could identify a student.
But the new documents also show that UNC and the NCAA required each player to allow the NCAA, a private nonprofit that oversees college sports, to make their personal information public as a condition of seeking to play for the team after being suspended.
The university released portions of other documents, known as “statements of fact,” in which it inquired about possible NCAA violations, as well as the edited copies of requests made later by the university to the NCAA seeking to reinstate some players to the team.
In all, 14 players were suspended or withheld from play in 2010. UNC was sanctioned by the NCAA for a range of violations that included unethical conduct by former top assistant coach John Blake; more than $27,000 in impermissible benefits for seven athletes from agents; and academic misconduct by a former tutor who also provided athletes with improper benefits.
Legal bills unclear
The documents also show that a Kansas law firm billed UNC more than $66,000 for three months of work in 2010 while helping the university in the midst of an NCAA probe that led to sanctions against the school.
Billing on one invoice, for work in July 2010, was at a rate of $280 an hour.
A university spokeswoman declined immediate comment when asked what the total billing related to the probe has been.
An assistant at the law firm, Bond, Schoeneck & King of Overland Park, Kan., said lawyers with the firm were traveling and could not immediately be reached.
A media coalition continues to seek information about the improper activity at the university through the lawsuit. A hearing is scheduled for next week.
The university released the documents in advance of that hearing. The new documents appear to only cover the time period prior to the October 2010 lawsuit.