CHAPEL HILL, N.C. ― After waiting eight months to find out how the NCAA would revise its list of charges tied to the North Carolina’s long-running academic fraud scandal, the school is in similar position it was before.
UNC still faces five serious charges that include lack of institutional control.
The governing body added a charge that the school failed to sufficiently monitor its academic support program for athletes in the latest Notice of Allegations (NOA) released by the school Monday afternoon. The NCAA said the university also failed to properly oversee the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department that featured irregular courses as the heart of the scandal.
No coaches were cited for a violation, but all charges are potential top-level counts.
Athletic director Bubba Cunningham wouldn’t say why the changes were made nor discuss possible sanctions.
“The notice speaks for itself,” Cunningham said on a teleconference with reporters. “We have provided voluminous amounts of information to the NCAA, they determine if a bylaw has been violated and make that allegation. All I can respond to is what’s in front of us.”
The document used to specify violations is similar to a version sent last May in the multi-year case. It also included violations by a women’s basketball adviser for providing improper assistance on research papers.
But the NCAA removed a charge of school athletes receiving improper benefits through access to problem AFAM courses between 2002 and 2011. That included a reference to 10 athletes exceeding a 12-hour school limit of independent study credits countable toward graduation due to the problem AFAM courses.
It also removed a reference in the institutional-control charge that mentioned counselors using the courses to help keep at-risk athletes eligible “particularly” in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.
NCAA spokeswoman Emily James declined to comment on pending or potential investigations in an email Monday.
The new notice stems from UNC reporting additional violations after receiving the first NOA in August. North Carolina discovered more examples of athletes receiving improper assistance from women’s basketball adviser Jan Boxill and possible recruiting violations in men’s soccer, sparking another NCAA’s investigation that continued through the men’s basketball team’s run through the NCAA Tournament.
“Probably the only explanation (for the delay) is this is maybe the most complicated, involved case in history ― certainly in our history,” Cunningham said. “ … I think the volume and the time is probably why it lasted this long.”
Cunningham had said previously that the school hoped for a spring resolution in the academic case, an offshoot of a 2010 probe into the football program. But the arrival of the new notice is just a step in a process with months still ahead.
UNC again has 90 days to respond ― which is often the point when schools self-impose penalties if they choose to do so ― then the enforcement staff would have 60 days to respond to UNC’s filing. That would ultimately lead to a hearing with the infractions committee and a ruling that could come weeks to months afterward.
In the original football case, the NCAA issued sanctions in March 2012 roughly nine months after an NOA arrived. A similar timeline would carry this case through January, approaching seven years since NCAA investigators first arrived on campus.
The school’s academic case centers on independent study-style AFAM courses misidentified as lecture courses that required no class time and one or two research papers. Run largely by an office administrator ― not a faculty member ― the courses featured GPA-boosting grades and significant athlete enrollments across numerous sports, while poor oversight throughout the university allowed them to run unchecked for years.
A 2014 investigation by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments in problem AFAM courses.
The new NOA extends the time range on the charge against Boxill to run from February 2003 to July 2010.
In a statement, Boxill’s attorney Randall Roden said allegations against his client are “incorrect” and that she has told NCAA investigators she had no knowledge of “fake classes” or who graded the papers in question.
The failure-to-monitor charge spans fall 2005 through summer 2011, and includes Boxill as providing extra benefits through improper academic assistance to women’s basketball players.
The charges against each of the two AFAM staffers most directly linked to the irregularities ― they didn’t cooperate with NCAA investigators ― remained unchanged.
The case also led to trouble for UNC with its accreditation agency, which put the school on a year of probation last June. There have also been three lawsuits filed by ex-UNC athletes, two of which are in pending in federal court.