University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill officials now know the results of a nearly yearlong investigation by the NCAA into the longstanding academic fraud that involved 3,100 students over an 18-year-period.
But the university would only acknowledge receipt of the NCAA’s findings, known as a Notice of Allegations, and declined to make the document immediately available.
In a joint statement, Chancellor Carol Folt and Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham said the university had begun reviewing the NCAA’s notice.
“We take these allegations very seriously, and we will carefully evaluate them to respond within the NCAA’s 90-day deadline,” the statement said. “The University will publicly release the NCAA’s notice as soon as possible. The notice is lengthy and must be prepared for public dissemination to ensure we protect privacy rights as required by federal and state law.”
The statement said that when the university’s review for redactions is complete, it will post the notice on the Carolina Commitment website and notify the media.
“Consistent with NCAA protocols, the University cannot comment on details of the investigation until it is completed,” the statement said.
Joel Curran, a UNC spokesman, said the notice would not be released Friday.
The notice comes nearly four years since the first clues of the fake classes surfaced. The NCAA was notified of them in August 2011, after The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer reported that former UNC football player Marvin Austin had received a high grade in an upper-level African studies class before he had begun his first full semester as a freshman.
That report ultimately touched off multiple investigations in the years since that found roughly 200 bogus classes dating as far back as 1993. The classes never met and only required a paper turned in at the end.
Several experts have said the academic fraud is the biggest in NCAA history.
For years, the NCAA declined to dig into the scandal. It visited the campus in the fall of 2011, but it later said in 2012 and 2013 that it saw no apparent violations in the fake classes. NCAA officials never gave a full explanation, but experts said the fraud would not be in the NCAA’s purview if it was open to all students and lacked any involvement by athletic personnel.
The NCAA’s posture changed in 2014, when former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein began investigating the fraud. Three months after his probe was under way, UNC said the NCAA had come back, based on evidence from formerly uncooperative witnesses thought to be Julius Nyang’oro, former chairman of the African and Afro-American Studies department, and his former department manager, Deborah Crowder.
Wainstein’s report in October found that the fake classes began in 1993 after counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes complained to Crowder that Nyang’oro’s independent studies were too demanding.
“On one occasion,” the report said, “Crowder told him that the ASPSA academic counselors believed he was ‘being an (expletive)’ for demanding so much from the players and were rethinking whether they should be steering student-athletes to AFAM classes.
“In light of that push-back from the ASPSA counselors, Crowder took it upon herself to improvise with AFAM’s independent study classes. She did so by designing an irregular independent study class that essentially took the professor out of the picture — substituting herself for the professor and substituting her standards for those that traditionally apply to independent studies.”
Several years later, Crowder began masking these classes by labeling them lecture-style classes. That allowed athletes and other students to take more than four of them without coming under scrutiny for taking too many independent studies.
Crowder told Wainstein and his team of lawyers that she sought to help all needy students with the fake classes. But she had a particular concern for athletes. She was a big fan of UNC’s basketball team and was close friends with the team’s longtime counselor, Burgess McSwain, who died in 2004.
Wainstein’s report found that several counselors to the athletes knew the classes lacked instruction. Two suggested grades to Crowder.
John Fennebresque, chairman of the UNC Board of Governors, said he found out about the notice on Friday. The board Friday in Chapel Hill.
Folt rushed past reporters at the end of that meeting, saying she had another meeting to attend.