The NCAA has accused the University of North Carolina of exhibiting a lack of institutional control over the academics of its student-athletes. The organization’s findings were released Thursday in its Notice of Allegations, which North Carolina received on May 20 after investigations by both the school and the NCAA.
In all, the NCAA has accused the school of five violations. Four of them are considered Level 1 infractions, the most serious under the NCAA’s violation structure and defined as follows: “Violations that seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws, including any violation that provides or is intended to provide a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage, or a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit.
The allegations center on the school’s African-American Studies department. After its own investigation, North Carolina determined approximately 1,500 student-athletes at the school — along with a sizable number of regular students — had taken bogus classes in UNC’s African-American Studies department over an 18-year span, a time frame that included the Tar Heels’ NCAA men’s basketball titles in 2005 and 2009.
Even though all students at the school had access and knew about the classes, the NCAA determined that “student-athletes received preferential access to these anomalous courses, enrolled in these anomalous courses at a disproportionate rate to that of the general student body and received other impermissible benefits not available to the general student body in connection to these courses.”
“We take the allegations the NCAA made about past conduct very seriously,” UNC Chancellor Carol L. Folt and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement. “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.”
North Carolina has until Aug. 20 to issue a response to the NCAA if it intends to challenge the allegations. Then, the NCAA’s enforcement staff has 60 days to craft its own response and submit it to the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions. After that, the committee will hold a hearing, allowing both the school and the NCAA’s enforcement staff to present their cases. The committee will then issue its infractions report, including any penalties involved. This usually happens six to eight weeks after the hearing.
As for any possible punishment, the NCAA will use its previous penalty structure because the violations occurred before the new structure was put into place.
UNC AD Bubba Cunningham said that the NCAA will use the old penalty structure for any penalties, as opposed to new, tougher one.
— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) June 4, 2015
Here are the five allegations against North Carolina:
1. Beginning in 2002 and lasting until 2011, academic advisers in the athletic department worked with the school’s African and Afro-American Studies department to obtain special arrangements for student-athletes that were not available to the student body as a whole. Among the arrangements, per the NCAA: “requesting certain course offerings within the AFRI/AFAM department on behalf of student-athletes, contacting individuals within the AFRI/AFAM department to register student-athletes in courses, obtaining assignments for classes taught in the AFRI/AFAM department on behalf of student-athletes, suggesting assignments to the AFRI/AFAM department for student-athletes to complete, turning in papers on behalf of student-athletes and recommending grades.”
The NCAA alleges that some of the classes involved had “little, if any, attendance requirements, minimal to no faculty interaction, lax paper writing standards and artificially high final grades,” and that academic advisers steered athletes to these courses for the sole purpose of keeping them eligible.
At North Carolina, students can only take 12 hours of independent-study courses during their undergraduate careers. The NCAA alleges that the school allowed 10 student-athletes to exceed the 12-hour limit from 2006 to 2011.
2. That Jan Boxill, a North Carolina philosophy instructor and academic counselor for the North Carolina women’s basketball team, wrote or finished papers for the team and, in one instance, turned in a player’s paper to the African and Afro-American Studies department while also recommending a grade for that paper in the same e-mail.
3. That Deborah Crowder, the former student services manager in the African and Afro-American Studies department, failed to assist the NCAA with its investigation even though she was requested to do so by both the NCAA and North Carolina officials. “Specifically, Crowder refused to participate in an interview with both the institution and the enforcement staff despite at least three requests for her participation,” the NCAA writes.
4. That Julius Nyang’oro, former professor and chair of the African and Afro-American Studies department, failed to assist the NCAA with its investigation even though she was requested to do so by both the NCAA and North Carolina officials. The NCAA says it sent five requests for his participation.
5. That the school exhibited a lack of institutional control for failing to properly monitor the activities of Boxill and the African and Afro-American Studies department. On the latter, the NCAA alleges that anomalous courses in the African-American studies department went unchecked for 18 years, allowing student-athletes — particularly on the football and men’s and women’s basketball teams — to take these classes at a disproportionate rate to the rest of the school’s student body.