North Carolina will look into issues regarding Sylvia Hatchell’s women’s basketball program. (Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press)

The University of North Carolina announced Monday that it had placed Tar Heels women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell and her three assistants on paid administrative leave so an outside law firm can “review and assess the culture” of the program. In a statement, the school said the review was spurred by “issues raised by student-athletes and others.”

Hatchell, a Hall of Famer who has been North Carolina’s coach since 1986, promised to cooperate with the investigation in a statement of her own.

“I’ve had the privilege of coaching more than 200 young women during my 44 years in basketball,” her statement reads. “My goal has always been to help them become the very best people they can be, on the basketball court and in life.

“I love each and every one of the players I’ve coached and would do anything to encourage and support them. They are like family to me. I love them all.”

An annual NCAA power for most of Hatchell’s tenure and the 1994 national champion, North Carolina returned to the NCAA tournament this year for the first time since 2015, losing in the first round to California. It was the culmination of a tumultuous stretch for the Tar Heels, whose entire athletic program was the subject of a long-running NCAA investigation into whether athletes benefited from sham courses conducted by the school’s African Studies program. The NCAA’s investigation focused in part on Jan Boxill, a former academic counselor for the women’s basketball team.

In the end, the NCAA concluded that its rules did not apply in this case because the classes were available to North Carolina’s entire student body, and none of the school’s athletic teams was punished. Nevertheless, Hatchell said in 2016 that it was “hard not to say” that her program had become a scapegoat because of the investigation’s focus on Boxill, who was the only UNC staff member with ties to the athletic department to be charged with wrongdoing by the NCAA.

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