UNC receives notice of allegations from NCAA in probe connected to academic fraud scandal

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FILE - In this Oct. 22, 2014, file photo, University of North Carolina Chancellor Carol Folt, center, addresses the media following a special joint meeting of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees in Chapel Hill, N.C. From left are, Kenneth Wainstein, lead investigator, University President Tom Ross and Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham at right. North Carolina has received a notice of allegations from the NCAA connected to the school's academic fraud scandal. In a statement Friday, May 22, 2015, Chancellor Carol Folt and athletic director Bubba Cunningham said UNC is reviewing the notice and will release it publicly at a later date.(AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)


North Carolina has received a notice of allegations from the NCAA connected to the school's academic fraud scandal.

In a statement Friday, Chancellor Carol Folt and athletic director Bubba Cunningham said UNC is reviewing the "lengthy" notice and will release it publicly "as soon as possible" after redactions to comply with privacy laws.

"We take these allegations very seriously, and we will carefully evaluate them to respond within the NCAA's 90-day deadline," they said.

The statement did not reveal the contents of the document, which the NCAA uses to specify rules violations. It will ultimately lead to a hearing for the school with the infractions committee, which would then issue a ruling and any potential sanctions within a time frame of weeks to months.

Inside Carolina first reported the arrival of the document. NCAA spokeswoman Emily James said in an email that the organization wouldn't comment about the case.

The NCAA reopened a probe into academic misconduct last summer connected to the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The focus was courses which were often treated as independent studies that required no class time and one or two research papers.

An eight-month investigation conducted by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein stated that an office administrator — not a faculty member — typically handed out assignments then high grades after only a scan of the work.

Wainstein's October report also found the fraud ran from 1993 to 2011 and affected more than 3,100 students, roughly half being athletes. The report outlined how academic counselors enrolled athletes in those classes and how poor oversight throughout the university allowed the fraud to run unchecked for so long.

The fraud case has led to several lawsuits from ex-UNC athletes against the school or NCAA, and school also faces questions from its accreditation agency.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Commission on Colleges had previously declined to sanction the school for its handling of the AFAM issues, but notified UNC in November it would take a another look after Wainstein's report.

Belle Wheelan, SACSCOC president, said Friday that the organization will review UNC's responses at a board meeting June 11 and determine "whether they have done all that we think they can" to address the problems and whether the school will face any sanction.

The NCAA's reopened probe grew out of a 2010 investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct within the football program. In that case, the NCAA issued sanctions in March 2012 — roughly nine months after the notice of allegations arrived — including vacated wins, scholarship reductions and a one-year postseason ban.

The NCAA and the school first jointly investigated the AFAM problems in fall 2011 and the school said in August 2012 that the NCAA had found no rules violations.

The NCAA later told UNC officials that it was not considering additional investigation or charges connected to the AFAM department, according to September 2013 email exchange obtained through a public-records request. That changed after Wainstein began his work, with Cunningham saying last June that the NCAA reopened its probe because new information was available and that Wainstein had been instructed to cooperate with the NCAA.

Wainstein met with two people tied most directly to the fraud — former department chairman Julius Nyang'oro and retired administrator Deborah Crowder — after neither had cooperated with earlier investigations. A. Joseph Jay III, one of the report's co-authors, said Friday they met with NCAA investigators three times and also briefed them by phone several times.

"The university said, 'We want you to share with the NCAA,'" Wainstein said Friday afternoon. "So we did that, and did it completely thoroughly. We gave them everything."


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