NCAA finds lack of institutional control at UNC

| June 5, 2015

unc logo sportsby Cullen Browder, WRAL, June 4, 2015.

In its second investigation of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill athletes and academics in five years, the NCAA found the university lacked institutional control, especially within the College of Arts and Science and in the actions of a former ethics professor.

The NCAA accused UNC of five violations of NCAA bylaws, most importantly of providing benefits to student-athletes not available to the student body. UNC’s recent history of impropriety served as an aggravating factor to the most recent round of allegations, the NCAA said.

In addition, the NCAA alleges that “persons of authority condoned, participated in or negligently disregarded the violation of relate wrongful conduct.”

 “What I think is most important for us is to take a look at what they alleged see what the facts we have on our campus, what we believe in, and present that back to the NCAA enforcement staff,” said Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. “The allegations are very serious, extra benefits, failure to cooperate lack of institutional control all of those are very serious.”

WRAL obtained a redacted copy of 59-page the Notice of Allegations and its hundreds of pages of exhibits after UNC leadership spent more than a week reviewing and redacting it in accordance with public records and student privacy laws.

Allegations cite AF-AM Department, Boxill

In the first allegation, the NCAA found that UNC directed student-athletes to certain courses within the Department of African and African-American Studies, arranged assignments fo those student-athletes and recommended grades for them.

FULL TEXT: Notice of Allegations

The second allegation centers on the women’s basketball program and Jan Boxill, former faculty chairwoman, an ethics professor and the former athletic-academic counselor for that team. Boxill, according to the NCAA, knowingly provided athletes, including players outside the women’s basketball team, with academic assistance, including recommending grades for them.

In making a case against Boxill, the NCAA interviewed current women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell, but Hatchell is not specifically implicated in any of the allegations.

“I’ve always run my program with integrity. That’s why reading some of the allegations are so disappointing,” Hatchell said in a statement.

Head men’s basketball coach Roy Williams was interviewed in December 2014, and he told investigators that he was concerned about the number of players from his team with AF-AM majors.

“Everyone who loves Carolina is truly saddened by these allegations,” Williams said in a statement Thursday. “We aspire to and work toward meeting higher standards than the actions that warranted this notice.”


UNC Academics InvestigationArchive: UNC investigations

The NCAA also interviewed football coaches Butch Davis, who was fired a year after allegations began to come to light, and Everett Withers, his interim replacement. Davis outlined for investigators the relationship between the football program and the student-athletic academic support program.

“I appreciate the work that the NCAA has put into this investigation, and am gratified that they have concluded — for a second time — that I was not involved in any of the alleged misconduct at the University of North Carolina,” Davis told WRAL Thursday.

The third and fourth of the allegations focus on Julius Nyang’oro, former department chair of the AF-AM Department, and his long-time assistant, Deborah Crowder, from whom investigators reviewed hundreds of pages of emails.

The emails detail Crowder’s help to student-athletes and her frustration when they did even less than she asked of them. In one message, she expressed disappointment that two student-athletes had turned in the same paper, provided them with a new assignment and pointed out that she wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt. In another, she notes that half the enrollment of a Swahili class is football players.

She exchanged numerous messages with Cynthia Reynolds, associate director of academic support of student athletes, arranging class assignments and discussing suggested grades for individual student athletes.

Nyang’oro, too, corresponded with Reynolds. The NCAA reviewed emails she sent him requesting a meeting to discuss paper topics for student athletes.

The NCAA alleges that Nyang’oro and Crowder refused to cooperate with both UNC and NCAA investigations despite multiple requests.

In conclusion, the NCAA found that “the scope and nature of the violations set forth … demonstrate that the institution violated the NCAA principles of institutional control and rules compliance.”

“I had a range of emotions as I read through the allegations,” Cunningham said. “My emotions followed whether I agreed or disagreed with what I was reading. We are delighted we are taking that next step to get to the end of this process.”

What is next?

UNC has until Aug. 20 to respond to the Notice of Allegations. Cunningham said Thursday that the university would take the full 90 days allotted to formulate a response.

“Some allegations we’ll agree with, and some we won’t,” he said.

UNC then faces a hearing with the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which includes representatives of other universities and select experts outside academia, then votes on any penalties to impose.

If the process follows the same pattern, it could be February or later before UNC learns the penalty for this round of violations. That uncertainty, according to some reports, has chilled recruits’ interest in committing to play at UNC.

Based on the NCAA’s published matrix of violations and punishments, which defines the allegations against UNC as “level 1 violations,” any penalty could include a postseason ban and loss of scholarships for teams implicated, fines of up to 5 percent of the athletic department budget, suspensions of active coaches and limits on contact with recruits.

“The range and scope of potential penalties is beyond anything I want to speculate on today,” Cunnginham said. “We have had multiple conversations with the NCAA, I’ve read an awful lot of cases, each and every case is unique. The amount of time we have spent as a University, number of reviews and investigations, the media coverage is something that is unparalleled.”

In the hours before the report was released, UNC outlined the members of two new campus groups charged with preventing future academic irregularities. One group will “identify any redundancies, gaps and inconsistencies,” the other “has been charged with reinforcing ethical high-integrity behavior.”

Five years of scandal

It was the football program that first caught the eye of the NCAA in 2010 when a series of Tweets led to an investigation that found academic improprieties, student-agent dealings and players accepting cash, gifts and trips. For those violations, the NCAA banned the UNC football program from the 2012 postseason. The team forfeited 15 scholarships over a three-year period and erased 16 wins from the record books.

The university, prompted by revelations during that investigation about student-athletes who got help with papers and classes that never met, conducted several reviews of the then-Department of African and Afro-American Studies, eventually hiring Kenneth Wainstein, who worked in the U.S. Attorney General’s Office, with a mandate to report on academic improprieties dating back to the early 1990s.

Wainstein found 169 student-athletes at UNC-CH over the course of 18 years who benefited from classes that never met or had grades manipulated to keep them eligible.

 Of the 169, 123 were football players, 15 were men’s basketball players, eight were women’s basketball players and 26 played in one of the Olympic sports.

Whistleblower Mary Willingham, who worked as an advisor at UNC before coming forward with the allegaitions of academic wrongdoing, released a statement on her website Thursday that read in part, “In its Notice of Allegations against UNC, the NCAA has stated the obvious: there was no real institutional control over the athletics program in Chapel Hill for a very long time…We find it especially revealing, and discouraging, that Jan Boxill was singled out for one of the five named allegations. Boxill worked in a system where all who had regular contact with athletes were complicit in a charade. These people included admissions officials, athletic directors, academic counselors, coaches, and compliance staff for football, men’s basketball, and many other sports.”

Cunningham noted that the Notice of Allegations are just another step on a long path to closure for UNC.

“This may be the longest game in the history of the world, we are at half time,” Cunningham said. “Everyone wants to bring closure to this. It’s not a pleasant time in the history of the university.”

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