RALEIGH, North Carolina — North Carolina's flagship university is assuring that its top executives control the athletic department rather than the other way around while acknowledging a fake grade scandal that helped keep hundreds of athletes eligible ran longer and deeper than the school previously thought.
Officials from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill made the statements in a letter, released Tuesday, to an accrediting group. The university tells the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges that Chancellor Carol Folt exercises several levers of administrative and financial control over the school's athletics program as well as her oversight of Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham and the faculty's representative on athletics issues, the school's response letter to SACSCOC said.
An investigative report by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein released in October said more than 3,100 students — about half of them athletes — benefited from sham classes and artificially high grades. The fake courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies department helped the athletes stay eligible to compete.
The Wainstein report raised several questions of "institutional Integrity," for example by disproving earlier university claims that the academic fraud was the work of just two people in the African studies department, the accrediting group said. The school was "not diligent in providing information" during a previous, detailed SACSCOC review in 2013, the group said.
UNC-CH is dismissing a handful of other employees who played a role in the fake grades scheme and believes it cooperated fully in the past, the school's response said.
The commission's seal of approval is necessary for UNC-CH to continue receiving federal funds. The accrediting agency's review is expected to take months. A decision by the agency's board is not expected before June.
The university's letter was dated Jan. 12 and the school spent the subsequent week combing through it to black out parts to comply with privacy laws, UNC-Chapel Hill spokesman Rick White said. The school's response was accompanied by about 400 supporting documents, which the university plans to release on Wednesday, he said.
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