College Sports

NCAA accuses UNC of lack of institutional control

UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt listens as Bubba Cunningham, Director of Athletics at UNC-Chapel Hill, answers a question about future NCAA sanctions during a press conference after a report was released on academic problems at Chapel Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014.
UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt listens as Bubba Cunningham, Director of Athletics at UNC-Chapel Hill, answers a question about future NCAA sanctions during a press conference after a report was released on academic problems at Chapel Hill on Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2014.

The University of North Carolina released the redacted version of the Notice of Allegations from the NCAA on Thursday.

The 59-page document from the NCAA outlines the university's wrong-doings during an academic scandal and includes five itemized allegations. The most damaging of the specific allegations is providing impermissible academic benefits to athletes from 2002 until 2011 and for what the NCAA refers to as a "lack of institutional control."

The NCAA described the lack of institutional control allegation as a "severe breach of conduct because the violations seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model."

UNC has 90 days to respond to the notice, which it received May 20. The NOA effectively sets a timetable for the conclusion of the prolonged investigation into one of the most complex academic scandals in NCAA history. Under the normal timetable, UNC will meet with the NCAA in Indianapolis in three months and receive a ruling in nine months, likely by March 2016.

While the men's basketball and football programs were the focus of Kenneth Wainstein’s investigative report released in October, it is the women's basketball program, and the actions of former athletic academic counselor Jan Boxill that drew much of the NCAA's attention in this probe.

Boxill, former student services manager Deborah Crowder and former chair of the African and Afro-American Studies department Julius Nyang'oro were specifically mentioned in the NOA. Their "violations of ethical conduct" consisted of three of the five specific allegations.

Crowder, Boxill and Nyang'oro no longer work for UNC. Crowder retired in 2009. Nyang’oro resigned from his chair position in 2011 and was forced to retire in July 2012. Boxill resigned in February 2015, months after the university took action to fire her.

Boxill was a philosophy instructor and director of the Parr Center for Ethics at the school. The NCAA outlines her violations with adding content to incomplete papers for multiple athletes on the women's basketball team. She also turned in one paper for an athlete and recommend a grade for the paper.

The notice of allegations came nearly a year after the NCAA decided to re-investigate bogus "paper" classes at UNC and six months after Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor, linked what he described as a "shadow curriculum" created in an effort to keep athletes eligible.

According to Wainstein's report, roughly half of the 3,100 students involved the paper classes and independent studies between 1993 and 2011 were athletes.

The NCAA described the paper-class scam as providing "impermissible benefits to student-athletes that were not generally available to the student body."

Wainstein's report centered on Crowder, the former administrative manager for the AFAM Studies department, and her boss, Nyang'oro.

Crowder began offering the classes in 1993 after counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes complained that the department's independent studies were too demanding.

She provided independent studies that only required a paper at the end. There was no professor involved; Crowder typically provided a high grade so long as a paper was turned in. Evidence showed she did little more than skim them.

While Wainstein's report spanned back to 1993, the NCAA's specific allegations for helping athletes only goes back to 2002.

When Crowder retired, counselors for the football team pressed Nyang’oro to offer more classes, which he did. The scheme didn't end until The News & Observer, in August 2011, reported an unusual high grade in an upper-level class that a football player received in the summer before he started his first full semester as a freshman.

Wainstein's research found that over the 18-year period, athletes made up 1,871 of the enrollments in the paper classes. Of the enrollments, the football team accounted for 51.4 percent (963), the men's basketball team 12.1 percent (226) and the women's basketball team 6.1 percent (114).

The NCAA's use of the "lack of institutional" control tag makes this investigation different from the one five years which began when the NCAA interviewed a handful of UNC football players, including current NFL players Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn, for taking improper gifts and benefits from sports agents.

The NCAA handed down its punishment in that case in March 2012, nine months after UNC received the NOA in June 2011.

The university released a joint statement from chancellor Carol Folt and athletic director Bubba Cunningham on Thursday with the NOA:

"We take the allegations the NCAA made about past conduct very seriously. This is the next step in a defined process, and we are a long way from reaching a conclusion. We will respond to the notice using facts and evidence to present a full picture of our case. Although we may identify some instances in the NCAA's notice where we agree and others where we do not, we are committed to continue pursuing a fair and just outcome for Carolina.

"We believe the University has done everything possible to address the academic irregularities that ended in 2011 and prevent them from recurring. We have implemented more than 70 reforms and initiatives to ensure and enhance academic integrity. We will continue to monitor the effectiveness of those measures and, wherever needed, put additional safeguards in place."

Dan Kane and Jane Stancill contributed to this report.

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