The National Collegiate Athletic Association has signaled that its case against the University concerning long-running athletics-academics fraud issues will not go down quietly, as some had surmised after UNC asserted that the athletics governing body had overstepped its own limits in the investigation.
In documents released three days ahead of a scheduled hearing between the two parties, the NCAA sharply disagrees with UNC’s claims that:
The NCAA also disputes UNC’s assertion that information gathered for the Wainstein report, the most extensive independent probe of the scandal, should not be considered.
“For the institution and the NCAA, materials uncovered by [Wainstein] provided an opportunity to look at a substantially larger amount of information not previously reviewed by investigators,” wrote Tom Hosty, the NCAA’s director of enforcement, in a Sept. 19 letter to Chancellor Carol L. Folt that is part of about 80 pages of documents.
Over a period of about 18 years, the administrator of the former department of African and Afro-American studies developed a system of independent studies classes — listed as lecture-taught courses but which involved only completion of a single research paper and no professor present — that had the blessing of the department’s chair. Deborah Crowder ’75, the department’s former administrative assistant, organized 188 courses, assigned the papers, graded them with high marks that bore no correlation to the quality of the work and did not look for plagiarism.
In the 12 years between 1999 and 2011, there were 3,933 enrollments in the paper classes, and 47.6 percent of those were varsity athletes — primarily football and men’s basketball players. Athletes make up less than 5 percent of the student body.
“That level of use by student-athletes did not happen accidentally,” the documents said.
The information in the Wainstein report, the documents say, “provided, for the first time, a complete picture of the athletics department’s preferential access to anomalous AFRI/AFAM courses and, in some cases, how it used those courses to retain NCAA eligibility for student-athletes. This access provided student-athletes with advantages that other students simply did not have.”
The NCAA said it concurs with UNC that it does not have jurisdiction over the structure of academic programs. However, it added: “Administrators who were responsible for monitoring student-athlete access to and use of courses failed in their monitoring duties. This failure is an NCAA violation impacting values at the heart of the NCAA.”
Challenging the statute of limitations claim, the NCAA said cases based on allegations of “willful violations by an institution or involved individual” are not subject to the four-year limit.
In the matter of the governing body’s initial ruling in 2012 against UNC, which primarily involved prohibited contact between football players and professional agents, it says that the investigation at that point had not touched on the AFAM irregularities and that UNC had withheld information from the enforcement staff at that time.
Finally, the NCAA charges that UNC wants the Wainstein report kept out of the probe only because it contains material “the institution believes to be damaging.” “In other contexts,” the documents say, “the institution has never publicly disavowed the material contained within the [Wainstein] report, nor disagreed with any of its conclusions. On the contrary, the institution boasts that it instituted a number of material reforms upon receipt of the report.”
The two sides are scheduled to meet Friday in Indianapolis, where the NCAA is headquartered. That hearing will not cover the question of whether UNC violated NCAA rules — only the procedural claims made by the University in August and now rebutted by the NCAA.