NCAA will re-open academic fraud investigation at North Carolina

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

The University of North Carolina has announced the NCAA is coming back to campus and effectively re-opening a 2011 investigation into academic impropriety involving former student-athletes at the school. The investigation, which vaguely wrapped up more than two years ago, vaguely without any penalty from the NCAA toward UNC, stems from possible nefarious activity between former professors and student-athletes that is alleged to have occurred over the past 15 years.

Reports have shown no-show courses, phony grades and classes requiring only one end-of-term paper to be consistent over a period of time in previous years at the university. The former at the center of the controversy -- head of the Afro and African-American studies department, Dr. Julius Nyang'oro -- resigned in September of 2011.

A former tutor, Mary Willingham, has gone on record against former academic practices with UNC athletes. Emails suggesting benefits of tickets and invites to watch football games from the sidelines have also stained the academic reputation of the school in recent years.

Why is this happening now? Because the NCAA believes it can gather more evidence in the case thanks to those who are now supposedly willing to speak. That wasn't the case in 2011 or 2012.

The statement in full via UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham:

"The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has received a verbal notice of inquiry from the NCAA that it will repoen its 2011 examination of academic irregularities. The NCAA has determined that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might now be willing to speak with the enforcement staff.

Since 2011, the university has conducted and commissioned numerous reviews of this matter and provided the NCAA with updates. In February, the university retained former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein to conduct an independent investigation and instructed him to share relevant information directly and confidentially with the NCAA.

The university has instituted numerous academic reforms based on findings from earlier reports that an be found at http://carolinacommitment.unc.edu/. We remain committed to learning from our past so that we can move forward to building a stronger university.

Consistent with NCAA protocols, we will have no further comment on this matter until the process is complete."

The news comes two and a half weeks removed from former UNC basketball star Rashad McCants claiming he had tutors do his work for him and that he appeared on the Dean's List in 2005 without doing classwork in many of his courses. McCants reportedly declined to speak with Wainstein previously. Whether that's changed, we don't know. What is still clear: No other current or former UNC athlete has publicly spoken or copped to cheating except for McCants.

Details of the new investigation on UNC's side will remain hush-hush until interviews are complete and this latest investigation runs its course. It will be the fifth major investigation regarding academic fraud that UNC has been subject to in the past three years.

The NCAA has been hesitant to punish the school in the past because the phony courses in question were not solely available and beneficial to athletes. When the general student body as a whole is subject to academic fraud, the NCAA has traditionally not taken action an instead let the universities take action against themselves.

 
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