NCAA Accuses UNC of Top-Level Violations

North Carolina fans in during a game vs Duke in Chapel Hill.

North Carolina fans in during a game vs Duke in Chapel Hill.

Photographer: John W. McDonough /Sports Illustrated/Getty Images

The University of North Carolina was accused of five of the NCAA’s most severe violations, as part of a renewed investigation into impermissible benefits and academic fraud committed at the school.

In its notice of allegations, sent to UNC last month and published online Thursday, the National Collegiate Athletic Association supplied evidence that school employees suggested grades for athletes, turned in assignments on their behalf, and refused to comply with a previous investigation. It also claims the schools displayed a lack of institutional control as the violations occurred.

The school has 90 days from first receipt to review the document and file a response if it wants to challenge any of the accusations. 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 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,” Chancellor Carol Folt and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said in a joint statement last month. “Consistent with NCAA protocols, the university cannot comment on details of the investigation until it is completed.”

The notice of allegations starts with impermissible benefits that stretched from 2002-2011, which include athletics academic counselors allowing looser academic requirements, suggesting grades and turning in papers on behalf of athletes. This is considered a “Level 1” violation by the NCAA, and the letter contains 252 pieces of evidence from interviews and e-mails to support the claims.

Academic Assistance

The second Level 1 violation in the notice involves a philosophy instructor and academic counselor that the NCAA claims provided impermissible academic assistance to women’s basketball players from 2007-2011.

The next two violations, both Level I, involve a pair of employees in UNC’s African and Afro-American Studies department who refused in 2014 and 2015 to comply with multiply interview attempts.

“Participation in an NCAA enforcement investigation is critical to the common interests of the NCAA’s membership,” the NCAA said in the letter.

The final allegation is a lack of institutional control. This includes failure to monitor impermissible academic benefits given to athletes and inability to monitor an African-American studies department that created anomalous courses that went “unchecked for 18 years.”

Football Coach

The NCAA last year reopened 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 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.

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.”

‘Shadow Curriculum’

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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