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North Carolina Now on Clock to Respond in NCAA Academic Case

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. ― North Carolina is preparing for the next step toward a long-awaited resolution in the multi-year case centered around its academic fraud scandal.

The school and individuals named for violations have 90 days to respond now that they finally know what NCAA charges they face. It’s the next procedural deadline, though not one set in stone.

UNC was near its August response deadline to the first Notice of Allegations (NOA) used to specify violations when it reported additional information to the NCAA for review. That paused the process until Monday, when the NCAA sent a revised notice that still contains five serious charges ― including lack of institutional control ― tied to irregular courses in an academic department popular with athletes.

UNC officials had hoped for resolution by spring. Now they’re back on the clock.

“As far as speculating on time, I’ve been off by a year so far, so I’m not sure I’m a very good one to speculate on that,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham said this week. “We have 90 days to respond, as does everyone else named in the amended notice. I would think the 90 days would probably be a good time frame to use for a response.”

From there, the NCAA enforcement staff has 60 days to respond. That would lead to a hearing with an infractions committee panel followed by a ruling weeks to months later, a timeline that could push into 2017.

But Mississippi offers recent proof that the process can hit a snag.

Ole Miss received a still-unreleased NOA in late January in a case involving multiple sports programs. It was near its late-April response deadline when an involved third party received a 30-day extension that put things on hold.

The three individuals charged in the UNC case no longer work at the Chapel Hill campus, so they could choose not to respond at all.

One is Jan Boxill, a women’s basketball academic counselor and philosophy instructor. She is charged with providing improper assistance on assignments between 2003 and 2010, as well as suggesting a grade for one of the problem courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department at the heart of the scandal.

Randall Roden, her Raleigh-based attorney, told The Associated Press that they plan to respond by the deadline.

“We’ll defend her,” Roden said. “And we’re going to contest these things. She didn’t request a grade. She didn’t do students’ work for them. She didn’t write tests for students to hand in. She didn’t write papers or parts of papers for students to hand in.

“She did correct their work. She did instruct them about how to do these things. She gave them examples and she gave them resources, but she didn’t do anything improper.”

The two people most directly linked to the irregularities ― department chairman Julius Nyang’oro and administrator Deborah Crowder ― are each charged with failing to cooperate in the NCAA probe.

Bill Thomas, a Durham-based attorney representing Nyang’oro, confirmed in an email to the AP that they had received a new NOA but declined to comment further. Christopher G. Browning Jr., a Raleigh-based attorney who has worked with Crowder, didn’t return a call or email Wednesday from the AP.

The case centers on independent study-style courses misidentified as lecture courses and offering GPA-boosting grades. 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 across numerous sports making up roughly half the enrollments.

Wainstein’s report stated the courses were run largely by Crowder instead of a faculty member, while poor oversight allowed them to run unchecked for years.

The current Notice of Allegations removes an improper-benefits charge from between 2002 and 2011, as well as a reference to football and men’s basketball in the institutional-control charge. It adds a charge that UNC failed to sufficiently monitor the AFAM department and its academic support program for athletes.

UNC’s accreditation agency put the school on a year of probation in June, while there have been three lawsuits filed by ex-UNC athletes ― two pending in federal court.

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