College Sports

In UNC documents, redactions shield innocuous information

Kenneth Wainstein, a partner with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, holds up a report detailing accounts of academic fraud in association with the athletic department at UNC during a press conference on Oct. 22, 2014, in Chapel Hill.
Kenneth Wainstein, a partner with Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, holds up a report detailing accounts of academic fraud in association with the athletic department at UNC during a press conference on Oct. 22, 2014, in Chapel Hill.

Redactions were to be expected when UNC-Chapel Hill made public the 730 pages of exhibits the NCAA’s enforcement division used to build its notice of allegations against the university. But some of them shield information that wouldn’t appear to run afoul of state and federal privacy laws.

Take, for instance, an email between Janet Huffstetler, the longtime men’s basketball tutor, and Jennifer Townsend, who became the academic counselor for the team in 2009. Huffstetler appears to be missing the days when Dean Smith was coach. She makes reference to changes that took place when Roy Williams took over in 2003, replacing academic counselor Burgess McSwain with Wayne Walden, who followed Williams from Kansas.

“Jenn, for many years, (redacted) was very separate from the Academic Center. Burgess McSwain whom I’m sure you have heard of, kept it that way because Coach Smith wanted it that way. He wanted the (redacted) boys to remain separate and not get lumped in the ‘athlete label’ that I’m sure you have witnessed, often works against them. After Burgess got sick, Coach Williams came, Wayne came, they put (redacted) in the middle of the Academic Center…”

It’s a pretty safe bet the redacted words here are “basketball” or “BB” or “MBB.” It’s difficult to see how their removal satisfies a privacy concern.

Smith and his successor, former longtime assistant coach Bill Guthridge, kept the academic support for his team separate from the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes. That meant McSwain, a close friend of Deborah Crowder, the former African studies department manager and architect of the fake classes, had academic oversight for men’s basketball. Former Coach Matt Doherty, who ran the team from 2000 to 2003, told investigators last year that Smith and Guthridge wanted him to keep it that way.

“As a result, the McSwain-Crowder pipeline continued to operate, and there were 42 enrollments of men’s basketball players in paper classes during Doherty’s tenure,” said an investigative report from former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein.

Wainstein had included the same email in his supplemental material, and it has the same redactions.

UNC has also redacted dates and course numbers from numerous emails the NCAA has cited in its case. One email, for example, shows that former football academic counselor Cynthia Reynolds asked Crowder if an athlete is running up against the limit of 12 credit hours of independent studies. It was not among the documents released in Wainstein’s investigation.

“Do all these count towards the 12 hours?” Reynolds asked. “Can you eyeball it also to double check the total?”

It would be important to know if that email was sent prior to the 2006-07 academic year, when UNC officials clarified that independent studies were not the correspondence courses being offered out of the Friday Center and were subject to a 12-credit-hour limit for special studies. The university, in a letter to the commission that accredits UNC, said earlier this year that 2006-07 academic year was when the limit was first established for independent studies, and the NCAA’s notice of allegations appears to be accepting UNC’s position.

Wainstein found that Crowder and others at UNC had interpreted the university’s longstanding policy on “special studies” pertained to independent studies. Crowder began disguising her paper classes as lecture courses in 1999 so students didn’t run into that limit, Wainstein said. Many of those who exceeded it were athletes.

The N&O requested that UNC reconsider the redactions in the NCAA exhibits. UNC spokesman Rick White said the university wouldn’t.

“The redactions were done in accordance with federal and state law,” White said in an emailed response.

The NCAA’s notice also references roughly 30 interviews it conducted with former and current UNC employees involved in the case. UNC has access to transcripts of those interviews to help it prepare a response, and its attorney typically sits in on them and asks questions. UNC has described the case as a joint investigation between UNC and the NCAA.

But White said UNC could not release those transcripts.

“The University does not have custody of the materials you mentioned,” White said. “Counsel representing the University only has access to view those materials on a secure NCAA website.”

Kane: 919-829-4861

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