NCAA Informs UNC of Violations From Widespread Academic Fraud

North Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham
North Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham. Photographer: Lance King/Getty Images
  • UNC has 90 days to respond to the NCAA enforcement findings
  • Academic fraud spanned 18 years and involved 3,100 students

The University of North Carolina was told by the NCAA that it violated rules stemming from academic fraud that spanned 18 years and involved 3,100 students.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association this week sent a notice of allegations to UNC, a document that details violations and supporting evidence uncovered by the enforcement staff of college sports’ governing body. UNC confirmed receipt of the document on Friday.

The school has 90 days to review the document and file a response if it wishes to challenge any of its content. The NCAA’s enforcement group then has 60 days to craft a rebuttal for the Committee on Infractions, which will then hear both sides. That means a resolution in the case may take until the end of 2015 or early 2016. 

“We take these allegations very seriously, and we will carefully evaluate them to respond within the NCAA’s 90-day deadline,” Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham and Chancellor Carol Folt said Friday in a joint statement. "Consistent with NCAA protocols, the university cannot comment on details of the investigation until it is completed."

The school will release the NCAA notice "as soon as possible" following a privacy rights review, according to the release.

Cunningham said last year that the NCAA was reopening its 2011 investigation into academic irregularities at the Chapel Hill institution. That NCAA report, which focused primarily on football players, was the first public revelation of academic fraud that has since widened through a series of investigations. The report also led to the dismissal of football coach Butch Davis and the departure of athletic director Dick Baddour.

The academic violations caught national attention after Mary Willingham, a learning specialist for UNC student-athletes, went public with allegations that some football and basketball recruits had the literacy skills of grade-school students. Willingham, who was demoted, resigned in April 2014.

The five-time NCAA champion men’s basketball team has become the face of the fraud from an athletics perspective. Rashad McCants, a member of the UNC team that won the 2005 national title, told ESPN last year that tutors wrote his term papers and that he made the dean’s list in 2005 after receiving straight As in four classes he didn’t attend.

UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams told the Citizen-Times in Asheville that the uncertainty of the NCAA investigation has damaged recruiting.

"But at the same time, we made some mistakes at our university, mistakes we are not proud of," Williams said, according to the paper.

In October, the school released the results of an independent investigation into the fraud, which included 3,100 students, almost half athletes, taking so-called paper classes -- with no faculty involvement or class attendance. Folt at the time called the fraud "the bad actions of a few and the inaction of others."

The investigation, led by attorney Kenneth Wainstein, found a “shadow curriculum” in the African and Afro-American Studies department, where hundreds of irregular or fake courses were offered. Unlike previous inquiries into the fraud, the report implicated the university for failing to better oversee the department and probed instances where deans and other senior administrators could have sounded an alarm about the classes.

Earlier this year, former UNC women’s basketball player Rashanda McCants -- Rashad’s sister -- and former football player Devon Ramsay sued UNC, claiming they were steered toward the paper classes for the purpose of ensuring continued eligibility. The NCAA was named as a co-defendant in the suit.


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