Newly released correspondence reflects a mindset at UNC-Chapel Hill that doubted or disputed information pointing to the athletic roots of bogus classes. University lawyers missed or ignored an early clue that could have unraveled the scheme.
The disclosures about the bogus classes would turn out to be far more serious than the improper benefits that got the football program in trouble in 2010.
The N&O requested the newly released records in late 2014. They divulge not only the discomfort and disbelief of some trustees, members of the board of governors and other university leaders, but also the seeds of strategies for containing the damage that played out in August when the university responded to major allegations of misconduct from the enforcement agency for college athletics.
UNC seeks to fight off sanctions by denying that the bogus classes constituted NCAA violations. Its sluggishness in revealing what had gone wrong aided another of its key defenses: That the NCAA should have known all about the impact of the fake classes in 2012, when it levied sanctions for the previous football transgressions. The university argues that if the NCAA didn’t penalize UNC for the classes then, it can’t do so now.
This story has unfolded slowly for six years. Now, as the NCAA’s latest enforcement case nears its end, The N&O has reviewed the newly released correspondence, looking for clues about why it took so long for one of the country’s top public universities to discover the full scope of its corrosive shadow curriculum.