NCAA Makes Changes in Notice of Allegations

The NCAA’s amended Notice of Allegations in UNC’s long-running athletic-academic fraud case reiterates the serious nature of what it calls the University’s failure to maintain institutional control and failure to monitor its former department of African-American studies and its academic support center for athletes.

The new notice, much shorter and more concise than the first — and which Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham said replaces rather than adds to the first — steers away from charges of special benefits to athletes, instead concentrating on failure to monitor the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes and the then-African and Afro-American Studies department.

It highlights additional incidents of impermissible academic assistance to women’s basketball players on the part of their former academic adviser, Jan Boxill. But whereas the original notice stated that advisers in the academic support center used the fraudulent courses set up in the AFAM department “to maintain the eligibility of academically at-risk student-athletes, particularly in the sports of football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball,” men’s basketball and football are not mentioned in the new notice.

The University now has 90 days to respond to the NCAA’s questions, such as what corrective and punitive measures have been taken and what disciplinary measures have been taken against athletics department officials.

There is nothing in the 13-page notice that adds to speculation over whether the NCAA would penalize UNC or any of its individual sports programs. Asked whether UNC was of a mind to self-impose penalties, as often is done to try to mitigate what the NCAA might do, Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham said that would be one consideration.

“We are carefully reviewing the amended notice of allegations resulting from our joint investigation with the NCAA and will respond with facts and evidence that present a full picture of our case,” Cunningham said in a statement. “The University takes these allegations extremely seriously. We remain committed to cooperating fully with the NCAA while working tirelessly to secure a fair outcome for Carolina.”

In a teleconference with reporters, Cunningham said repeatedly that lack of institutional control and failure to monitor are among the NCAA’s most serious charges.

The original NOA cited six instances in which Boxill, the longtime philosophy department faculty member and former chair of the faculty who was close to the women’s basketball program as its academic adviser, improperly helped athletes by amending and adding content to academic papers. The new NOA cited 23 instances after UNC self-reported additional information on Boxill in August. At the time, Cunningham said in reference to Boxill, “On the basketball side, it’s more of the same of what we’ve seen in the past.”

Chancellor Carol L. Folt fired Boxill on the day the Wainstein report was released in October 2014. Wainstein conducted the most comprehensive investigation into the matter.

One point in the new NOA roused the curiosity of a reporter: The original notice said the fraud covered an 18-year period, consistent with Wainstein’s findings. The new one uses the dates 2005 through 2011 with reference to UNC failing to monitor its programs. Cunningham would not speculate on the reason for that discrepancy.

A second NOA was necessitated by the University’s self-report of apparent additional violations of NCAA rules in August. Besides the Boxill findings, UNC reported an apparent recruiting procedure violation in the men’s soccer program. Cunningham said Monday that the soccer case “has been fully adjudicated” as a Level 3 violation, much less serious than the Level I violations of failure to monitor and lack of institutional control.

Using language very similar to the original NOA, the new one says, “Jan Boxill … knowingly provided extra benefits in the form of impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball student-athletes.”

It went on to say that “individuals in the athletics and academic administrations on campus, particularly in the college of arts and sciences, did not sufficiently monitor the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes and the African and Afro-American Studies department. Certain AFRI/AFAM courses were anomalous because they were designed as lecture courses but taught as independent study courses. The nature of these anomalous courses went undetected or was known and not addressed due to the institution’s failure to sufficiently monitor the department’s operations and students’, including student-athletes’, enrollment in such courses.”

It charged that the principal architect of the fraud, former AFAM administrative assistant Deborah Crowder ’75 and her boss, former AFAM Chair Julius Nyang’oro, failed to cooperate with the NCAA’s investigation.

The Boxill violations, the failure to monitor and the actions off Crowder and Nyang’oro together constitute lack of institutional control, the NOA said.

Given the 90-day response period and whatever time the NCAA takes to reach a decision on any punishment, it is likely to be late in the year before the almost six-year case is any closer to resolution.

The University expects to release exhibits related to the NOA after it has had a chance to redact names and other information it considers private — possibly within a few days.


A Timeline

  • 7/2010 — Football player Marvin Austin ’12 tweets from a trip he made to Miami, which hints that he may be receiving benefits due to his status as an athlete.
  • 7/2010 — NCAA investigators come to Chapel Hill for reasons then not specified.
  • 10/2010 — Then-Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 tells a news conference, “To everyone who loves this University, I’m sorry for what I have to tell you.” The NCAA investigation into the football program has uncovered possible academic misconduct involving an undergraduate student tutor and some players on the football team. “We don’t yet know the extent of the issue,” then-Athletics Director Dick Baddour ’66 (’75 MA) says. “We will get to the bottom of this.”
  • 7/2011 — Head football coach Butch Davis is fired.
  • 8/2011 — Then-University counsel Leslie Strohm notifies the NCAA that there may be problems in the then-department of African and Afro-American studies.
  • 8/2011 — The News & Observer obtains Austin’s transcript, which shows he started taking college classes in summer 2007. The paper said that Austin’s SAT scores required remedial writing and that he took and made a B-plus in a 400-level class listed as being taught by then-AFAM Chair Julius Nyang’oro.
  • 9/2011 — Baddour says he will retire as soon as a successor is found.
  • 3/2012 — The NCAA says UNC is responsible for multiple rules violations in its football program, including academic fraud and a failure to monitor the program. Carolina is given a ban on postseason play for the next season, reduction of five football scholarships in each of the next three years, three years’ probation and a $50,000 fine (self-imposed by UNC) and is ordered to vacate its eight wins in 2008 and eight in 2009 because ineligible players participated. UNC is ordered to vacate the individual records of those who played while ineligible. UNC says it will not appeal.
  • 5/2012 — An internal investigation covering the period summer 2007 through summer 2011 finds nine classes containing 59 students that were found to be “aberrant.” It says 43 other courses were either aberrant or were “taught irregularly” — i.e., “the instructor provided an assignment and evidently graded the resultant paper but engaged in limited or no classroom or other instructional contact with the student.”
  • 6/2012 — The State Bureau of Investigation begins looking into the matter.
  • 6/2012 — It is revealed that in summer 2011, 18 football team members and one former player made up the entire enrollment of an African and Afro-American studies class that was opened for enrollment on the day the summer session began — and that instructor Nyang’oro did not show up to teach.
  • 6/2012 — UNC finds no other departments doing what AFAM was found to have done.
  • 7/2012 — Nyang’oro retires.
  • 7/2012 — A special subcommittee of UNC’s Faculty Executive Committee reports deep concerns in the faculty about how thoroughly athletes — especially those in the revenue-producing sports of basketball and football — participate in the academic life of the University.
  • 7/2012 — UNC acknowledges that Hakeem Nicks ’10 played his final season in 2008 while ineligible to be on the field. NCAA documents show that Nicks received improper academic help in spring 2008 and calls it “academic fraud.”
  • 8/2012 — The N&O reports on the transcript of former star football player Julius Peppers ’02. Grades on the transcript make it clear that Peppers was in danger of being declared ineligible to play but that his average was bolstered by high grades in African studies classes.
  • 9/2012 — Documents obtained by The N&O show freshmen football players enrolled in an upper-level African studies class — while some of them could not read or write at a college level. Included is a heavily plagiarized paper by a member of the football team.
  • 9/2012 — Thorp announces he will step down as chancellor effective June 30, 2013.
  • 11/2012 — Mary Willingham, who had worked in the academic support program for athletes, tells The N&O that UNC is admitting athletes who are unable to do college work.
  • 12/2012 — Former Gov. James Martin reports, following an investigation UNC hired him to undertake, that Nyang’oro’s practice of getting approval for lecture courses that involved no lectures but a single paper due at the semester’s end started in 1997 — just months after AFAM was elevated from a curriculum to a department. Martin found patterns of faculty no-show classes that peaked in 2005-06 and then dropped precipitously — to near zero by 2009, the year Nyang’oro assistant Deborah Crowder ’75 retired.
  • 6/2013 — The N&O reveals email exchanges between Nyang’oro and academic counselors to athletes that strongly indicate term-paper-only courses were arranged for the convenience of athletes. UNC System President Thomas Ross ’75 (JD) requests copies of the emails.
  • 6/2013 — The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools initially declares UNC out of compliance with accreditation principles, then declines to sanction, recommending that the University offer makeup classes to those who took the fraudulent AFAM classes.
  • Fall 2013 — Provost James Dean says he repeatedly had asked Willingham for documents from research she did for a master’s thesis on the subject of athletes and academics. Willingham says she had reached out about her data to Dean, Ross and Chancellor Carol L. Folt, with no response.
  • 12/2013 — Nyang’oro is indicted by a grand jury on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretenses — specifically, taking $12,000 in pay he accepted despite not teaching a class.
  • Late 2013 or early 2014 — UNC’s Institutional Review Board pulls Willingham’s permit to do research. IRB had permitted her to do research but without permission to see individual names, which the IRB apparently didn’t think she needed. She characterizes this as a mistake on the IRB’s part, asking how she could have done this research without seeing names.
  • 1/2014 — Willingham asserts there was a basketball player who could not read or write. Coach Roy Williams ’72 denies this, then declines Willingham’s offer to meet with her.
  • 1/2014 — At a meeting of the Faculty Council, Provost Dean and Admissions Director Steve Farmer present extensive statistical evidence they say refutes Willingham’s assertions about reading ability of athletes at the time they are admitted to UNC. Willingham stands by her work.
  • 1/2014 — Former football player Michael McAdoo ’12 tells The N&O that his academic career  was a scam of courses designed to keep him eligible to play and presents himself as an victim of what happened in the case.
  • 2/2014 — The Orange County district attorney says Crowder will not be charged with crimes because she had agreed to cooperate in ongoing investigations.
  • 4/2014 — Three outside experts hired by UNC concur that Willingham’s research was not valid.
  • 5/2014 — Willingham resigns from UNC.
  • 6/2014 — Former basketball star Rashad McCants ’06 tells ESPN that he didn’t go to class, nearly flunked out and that his eligibility to play was saved by AFAM no-show classes.
  • 7/2014 — Charges against Nyang’oro are dropped in exchange for his cooperation in a new investigation by independent counsel Kenneth Wainstein.
  • 7/2014 — The NCAA reopens its investigation, anticipating new information gleaned through the Wainstein probe.
  • 10/2014 — Wainstein’s report places most of the onus on Crowder but also cites a number of key people whom the report says knew for years what Crowder was doing. It says that Jan Boxill, chair of the faculty from 2011 to earlier in 2014, “knew completely what these classes were all about and steered students to them.”
  • 10/2014 — UNC fires Boxill and three others and disciplines five others in response to the Wainstein report.
  • 11/2014 — SACS opens a new probe and says UNC withheld some information it had in 2012-13 dealings with SACS. UNC denies it knew anything relevant that it did not report to SACS.
  • 11/2014 — McAdoo sues UNC, saying that as an athlete he received a substandard education.
  • 1/2015 — Former athletes Rashanda McCants ’09 and Devon Ramsay ’12 sue the University, saying UNC did not deliver them the education it promised.
  • 3/2015 — UNC asks the court to dismiss McCants’ and Ramsay’s suit.
  • 5/2015 — The NCAA sends its Notice of Allegations to UNC.
  • 6/2015 — UNC is placed on probation for one year by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools after SACS’ second review of the academic fraud case and UNC’s action in response to it.
  • 7/2015 — SACS tells UNC that the University has yet to provide sufficient evidence that changes and initiatives arising from the case have been effective in correcting the situation.
  • 8/2015 — UNC reports two additional possible NCAA rules violations, necessitating a new Notice of Allegations from the NCAA.
  • 10/2015 — UNC estimates it has paid about $7.6 million to three law firms and a public relations agency for work related to the case.
  • 11/2015 — UNC fires two more people in the wake of the scandal, bans a former senior administrator from ever holding an administrative position at UNC again and clears three other staff members.
  • 2/2016 — A judge dismisses claims by two former UNC athletes who had sued the University saying they did not receive an adequate education.
  • 4/2016 — SACS officials visit UNC in preparation for a ruling on its probationary status expected in June.
  • 4/2016 — UNC receives a second Notice of Allegations from the NCAA.


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