On Wednesday, October 22, the report documenting an eight month in-depth investigation of alleged academic fraud at the University of North Carolina was released implicating over 3,000 students during 18 years of NCAA competition.
The report, authored by former federal prosecutor, Kenneth Wainstein, exposes a practice engaged in by counselors and teachers to protect student-athletes from academic requirements affecting their eligibility in competition. Student-athletes were ushered into certain “paper classes” that required little to no work, attendance, or participation for a good grade.
The scandal originally surfaced in 2010 when allegations surfaced regarding improper contact between athletes and agents. UNC investigated the claims and unearthed academic irregularities. The University then ordered investigations yielding six different reports, all of which stopped short of systemic problems. This report, ordered by new UNC Chancellor Carol Foit, addresses the root of the problem.
The central figure exposed is Debbie Crowder, assistant to the department chair of the African American Studies program, Julius Nyang’oro. Crowder, feeling sympathy for the struggling students, created paper classes that were very lenient on grading and registered them under Nyang’oro as the teacher. Nyang’oro eventually learned of the classes, yet he did nothing to stop the fraud. Several academic counselors pushed student-athletes into these classes to boost their GPA’s and maintain their competition eligibility. Former Dirctor of Football, Cynthia Reynolds, was also complicit as she told former football coach Butch Davis that these classes were part of the strategy to keep players eligible. Former football coach John Bunting was also aware.
Chancellor Foit has been at the forefront in exposing the fraud as well as picking up the pieces. Four employees of the university have been fired, and five more were disciplined. However, the once pristine UNC name is now tarnished. As the fraud extends back 18 years, UNC’s three college basketball national championships (1993, 2005, 2009) are in jeopardy.