NCAA: Issues at UNC 'clearly the NCAA's business'
Posted July 25
Updated July 26
Chapel Hill, N.C. — The NCAA has set Aug. 16 as the day for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to make its latest case in the ongoing investigation into no-show classes, and, in documents released Tuesday, reasserted its authority.
"The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA's business," the NCAA wrote. "When a member institution allows an academic department to provide benefits to student-athletes that are materially different from the general student body, it is the NCAA's business."
The facts of the case are generally accepted. The UNC-commissioned Wainstein Report found that student-athletes were given preferential treatment in the classroom and were specifically steered by academic counselors toward classes in the African and Afro-American Studies Department that rarely met and required only a paper to pass. Several employees were terminated or resigned as a result of the investigation.
The question of who benefited is at the heart of the dispute between UNC and the NCAA.
The NCAA has detailed five "Level 1" infractions – the most serious category – against the university, including lack of institutional control.
- UNC's response to the NCAA on third Notice of Allegations
- Dec. 2016 NCAA Notice of Allegations to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
UNC has maintained that the fake classes enrolled and benefited student-athletes and non-athletes alike, and is therefore not an NCAA matter. 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.
Tuesday's documents were the latest in a volley of back-and-forth between the parties.
In their response released in May, UNC wrote that "the issues concerning the courses are academic in nature and beyond the reach of the NCAA bylaws."
In response, the NCAA hammered over and over on the ways the courses violated NCAA rules, writing:
"When a member institution allows an academic department to provide benefits to student-athletes that are materially different from the general student body, it is the NCAA's business.
When athletics academic counselors exploit 'special arrangement' classes for student-athletes in ways unintended by and contrary to the bylaws, it is the NCAA's business.
When a member institution provides student-athletes an inside track to enroll in unpublicized courses where grades of As and Bs are the norm,1 it is the NCAA's business.
When a member institution uses 'special arrangement' courses to keep a significant number of student-athletes eligible, it is the NCAA's business.
When a member institution fails or refuses to take action after receiving actual notice of problems involving student-athletes, thereby allowing violations to compound and to continue for years, it is the NCAA's business."
Crowder maintains 'special arrangements' were not extra benefits
The NCAA also pointed the finger at UNC as the party that has allowed this case to drag out for more than eight years. In particular, the NCAA cited UNC's delay in sharing emails and the reluctance of Deborah Crowder, a long-time assistant in the AF-AM department, to speak to investigators.
Crowder and former department head Julius Nyang'oro are named in the NCAA's first allegation against UNC as providing extra benefits to student-athletes. Nyang'oro has yet to speak to the NCAA.
Crowder finally came forward earlier this year, only to deny that she violated any standards of conduct.
Crowder told NCAA investigators, as she did Wainstein, that there was no preference for student-athletes in the special classes, although university data show the enrollment of those classes was anywhere between 26.3 and 47.4 percent student-athletes at a time when they made up just 3 percent of the student body.
The NCAA noted that "Crowder and other academic advisors used these courses for students who found themselves in unforeseen circumstances."
But Crowder told the NCAA she stretched that definition to "student-athletes because classes sometimes impacted student-athlete's practice time."
The NCAA wrote the Crowder's connections to and affection for the staff of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, or ASPSA, allowed athletes benefits above and beyond those other students gained simply by enrolling in the fake classes.
It made a similar argument in its allegations naming Jan Boxill, former UNC-Chapel Hill faculty leader and a counselor for the women’s basketball team.
"Boxill occupied occupied multiple positions that afforded her a special relationship with both the women's basketball program and her faculty colleagues. Boxill abused these positions to provide impermissible benefits to multiple women's basketball student-athletes over the course of eight years," the NCAA wrote.
In making its case for the "lack of institutional control" allegation, the NCAA notes that ASPSA, the main connection between student-athletes and alleged infractions, lacked appropriate supervision although it reported to a dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.
"Not only did the institution provide little monitoring or guidance to ASPSA, it also failed to provide ASPSA with adequate NCAA rules training," the NCAA wrote.
Committee on Infractions meets Aug. 16
UNC released the NCAA's correspondence to the university Tuesday afternoon online in response to public records request in advance of its Aug. 16 hearing. In a statement, the university noted its officials aren't allowed to talk about the case until it's completed.
"The hearing is the next step in bringing closure to this longstanding issue by allowing us the opportunity to address the Committee on Infractions and present the facts," Vice Chancellor of University Communications Joel Curran said in a release online.
Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham, who will lead the UNC delegation to Nashville for the Committee of Infractions hearing, may find himself with an already biased jury. The NCAA claims an interview he gave to CBS Sports, in which he shared details of UNC's case, is in itself an NCAA violation.
Coaches Larry Fedora, Sylvia Hatchell and Roy Williams will all attend the hearing, which Curran said is "standard practice" for head coaches of programs referenced in a notice of allegations to attend.