UNC Gone Rogue
GetSportsFocus is presented by: Dr. Arthur J. Ting, MD – Sports Medicine & Orthopedic Surgery
by Emily Compagno, Legal/Sports Business Analyst and Host of “In the Zone” @Compagn0
The University of North Carolina has just released the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations stemming from its investigation of “academic irregularities” at the school.
We’ve been hearing about these academic irregularities at UNC for a while now. The NCAA investigated the school in 2011, and last October former prosecutor Kenneth Weinstein concluded an investigation (launched at the school’s request), during which he determined academic fraud had been occurring for over 18 years and involved over 1500 athletes. His report exposed “paper classes” during that time frame, in which student-athletes were given high grades regardless of merit. (Just for some perspective: during the 18 years the academic fraud occurred, the UNC men’s basketball team were NCAA tournament champions twice, and appeared in the Final Four six times, in the Elite Eight nine times, and in the Sweet Sixteen ten times. There are plenty more statistics, and more sports involved, but I’ll stop here.)
The NCAA announced last June it was reopening its 2011 investigation, because this time around “additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might be willing to speak with the enforcement staff.” What’s different now and why are we talking about this again? That reopened investigation has now concluded, and UNC has just received the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations. Meaning the NCAA has officially drawn up its list of what UNC did wrong, and included on that list is calling out those who failed to cooperate the first time around.
There are five allegations total, and all can be considered “severe breaches of conduct” – i.e. what the NCAA enforcement division considers the worst type of infractions.
Allegation No. 1: Impermissible benefits. “It is alleged that beginning in the 2002 fall semester and continuing through the 2011 summer semester, the institution provided impermissible benefits to student athletes that were not generally available to the student body.”
Allegation No. 2: Impermissible academic benefits. Here, the NCAA alleges basketball athletic academic counselor Jan Boxill “added content to multiple players’ incomplete papers.” She also left an Oregon Trail of evidence, including countless emails blatantly discussing her actions and content contributions, including confirming papers’ due dates.
Allegations No. 3 and No. 4: Failure to cooperate. UNC’s former African and Afro-American Studies student services manager Deborah Crowder failed to cooperate with the NCAA investigation, as did the chair of the African and Afro-American Studies department, Julius Nyang’oro.
Allegation No. 5: UNC failed to “effectively monitor the activities of rogue faculty,” constituting a “lack of institutional control.” This is important because the NCAA is acknowledging that the offenders acted independently and without the university’s approval or knowledge. Although it leads to the separate issue of UNC’s responsibility for that failure of knowledge (and ultimately, culpability for the infractions themselves), that’s far better than the institution itself condoning such severe violations.
Note, the lack of institutional control is considered not only an allegation here but an aggravating factor for the prior allegations. There are a few mitigating factors in the 59-page report (including UNC self-reporting violations of a relatively benign nature, classified as Level III), but many more that are aggravating (aggravating/mitigating goes toward both the severity of the allegation as it’s charged and the assessed penalty). The allegation concerning Boxill had no mitigating factors whatsoever.
What happens next? UNC has 90 days to respond to the allegations.
Additionally, the NCAA made a Request for Supplemental Information on various issues, including any disciplinary actions taken against department members related to the infractions, the present amount of grants-in-aid, and details of official visits to prospect athletes. The additional information requested should give you an idea of A. where the NCAA is headed with this and B. what holes remain after their investigation. The NCAA’s enforcement staff has 60 days to schedule a pre-hearing conference with UNC officials after receiving UNC’s response. Then the hearing before the Committee on Infractions will take place.
I anticipate the Response will detail the reform UNC has gone through, the actions directly taken by UNC against the offenders, the protocol and policy change implemented to ensure nothing of this sort happens again. It will be half repentant and half look-how-we-cleaned-our-own-house. It is UNC’s only hope for a non-decimating set of penalties levied by the NCAA, who has already made quite clear how serious it deems the behavior by those who went rogue.
Credit to USA Sports for providing the Notice of Allegations. Read the Notice here: