UNC Proposes Self-Imposed Sanctions for Football

The University is proposing sanctioning itself for misdeeds in the 2008 and 2009 football seasons, ahead of a ruling by the NCAA.

UNC would:

  • vacate all wins in the 2008 and 2009 seasons (eight each season);
  • cut by three its number of allowed football scholarships in each of three seasons beginning in 2012-13;
  • self-impose two years of NCAA probation; and
  • pay the NCAA a $50,000 fine.

In submitting the proposal (PDF) on Monday, UNC met the deadline set by the NCAA on June 2, when it gave UNC 90 days to respond to nine allegations. University representatives are scheduled to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Oct. 28 in Indianapolis.

In a prepared statement accompanying UNC’s response, Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 said, “We have acknowledged our violations, and we’ve responded in the way you would expect of this University. We think that the sanctions we have proposed accept responsibility and, at the same time, give our current and future student-athletes and coaches every opportunity for success.”

On Sept. 20, UNC posted links to 80 exhibits intended to support the University’s response letter to the NCAA. The University said the exhibits were redacted in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the State Personnel Act and the N.C. Public Records Law.

Athletics Director Dick Baddour ’66 said, “I believe the report is a very thorough response to the NCAA. The University of North Carolina takes our standing and reputation in the NCAA community seriously and with great respect and our response to the allegations reflects that. We accept responsibility for mistakes that were made in terms that are balanced, measured and fair.”

The response had a decidedly apologetic tone. The University reminded the NCAA that its only other appearance before the infractions committee occurred more than 50 years ago (when the men’s basketball program was found to have broken NCAA rules).

“The University believes, by virtue of remarks from the enforcement staff, that its participation fully met, and perhaps exceeded, the expectations embodied in the cooperative principle set forth in NCAA bylaws and practiced by member institutions,” the report says.

UNC withheld 13 football players from its first game of the 2010 season, four of whom never played for UNC again. Two days after the first game, administrators requested and received the resignation of assistant coach John Blake. UNC also disassociated a former player and a former student tutor and academic mentor for their involvement in rules violations.

In July 2010, the University discovered information that suggested Jennifer Wiley ’09, the former tutor, had provided impermissible help in the form of free tutoring services to several players. UNC says it told Wiley she should not tutor or provide benefits of any type to any athlete. Wiley, it says, did not follow those instructions.

That led to a widening of an investigation of Wiley’s conduct to include sports other than football. Wiley edited papers for the athletes, UNC says, correcting spelling and grammar mistakes and adding sentences.

During the investigation, the University uncovered evidence that indicated at least one player competed while ineligible during the 2008, 2009 and part of the 2010 seasons.

Blake had undisclosed dealings with a sports agent, Gary Wichard. Blake failed to inform the University that, during his employment, Wichard provided him financial assistance.

“The violations in this case resulted from poor decisions by several student-athletes, a former student tutor, and a former assistant football coach,” the report says. “The University believes that nearly all of those decisions were made despite knowledge that they violated NCAA rules. The University believes that, with regard to nearly every violation, at least one person — and often all of the people — involved had received rules education that either identified the conduct now at issue as impermissible (such as improper academic assistance), or should have prompted the person to ask the Department of Athletics’ Compliance Office for guidance prior to acting.”

The report says that in hindsight, UNC “could have taken additional steps that might have discouraged some of the people involved from committing some of the extra benefit violations or led to their discovery at an earlier date. The University accepts that responsibility.”

The report goes on to say that UNC has strengthened its rules education and monitoring programs since the investigation began.

The University plans to post redacted versions of exhibits that support the response letter as soon as the additional documents are available.

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