UNC maintains NCAA overreach in latest NCAA response
Posted May 25
Updated October 12
Chapel Hill, N.C. — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill maintained its stance on NCAA overreach in the most recent response to a third Notice of Allegations stemming from a years-long academic scandal.
According to the university, new bylaws passed by the NCAA in August 2016 that expand the association's reach into academics should not apply to this case because any infractions occurred before the regulatory changes. The university also claims that, despite the presence of valid extra-benefit violations, the school has "processes and procedures in place" that "does not establish lack of institutional control."
UNC was given their amended, third notice of allegations in December 2016.
"The issues concerning the courses are academic in nature and beyond the reach of the NCAA bylaws," the response reads, further stating "The Panel should not apply new and novel standards to penalize the University based on rules that did not exist when the conduct in question took place."
“The fundamental issue in our case is if the NCAA bylaws cover athletics matters, not how academics are managed," said UNC Athletics Director Bubba Cunningham. "We expect the Committee on Infractions to consistently apply these bylaws as the case moves forward."
UNC faces five Level 1 infractions, including lack of institutional control. The next step will be for the university to go in front of the Committee on Infractions to present their case.
In responding to allegation No. 5 – lack of institutional control – UNC's response read, "The academic irregularities related to the courses, significant as they were, presented failures of academic administration, not conduct that violates NCAA bylaws."
The university is taking a supportive stance on a multitude of infractions alleged against Jan Boxill, a former faculty chairwoman, ethics professor and the former athletic-academic counselor for the women's basketball team. Boxill was the centerpiece of allegation No. 2 that alleged she extended extra benefits to student-athletes, particularly in women's basketball from 2003 to 2010.
"The university agrees that some of the sub-allegations against [Boxill] support an allegation of extra benefits but ... all of the allegations that have merit occurred prior to the four-year statute of limitations and, therefore, are barred."
Football, which was removed from the NCAA's second NOA, but reinserted on the third iteration, was referenced more than a dozen times in UNC's latest response. Men's basketball is also specifically addressed after being omitted in the second NCAA NOA but referenced in the third edition.
UNC maintains that the Department of Athletics has never steered student-athletes to fraudulent courses with the idea of keeping them eligible and had no part in the creation of fake classes.
"The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts is that the Department of Athletics at the University of Chapel Hill took advantage of 'fake classes' in the department of African and African-American Studies to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record," the university wrote.
The university further maintains that academic counselors extended offers of independent study and absentee courses to a large number of non-athlete students in order to "balance their schedules and earn higher grades." This practice also extended into scholarship programs.
Allegations No. 3 and 4 pertained specifically to the involvement of Julius Nyang’oro, retired professor and head of the AFAM department and Deborah Crowder, Nyang’oro's long-time assistant whose efforts to aid students athletes by pushing for better grades and pointing them to no-show classes were detailed in the 2014 Wainstein Report.
After a long stint of not cooperating with the NCAA, Crowder recently presented her side. UNC maintains "a neutral position" on her Level I charge.
UNC said they hope the NCAA will "appropriately weigh professor Nyang'oro's refusal to participate," when they asses the Level I nature of his charge.