Report: Class filled with UNC football players under investigation

By Chip Patterson | College Football/Basketball Writer
Last month it was announced that football players made up more than a third of enrollments in suspect classes at North Carolina investigated for academic fraud. The school identified 54 courses within the Department of African and Afro-American Studies between summer 2007 and summer 2011.

University records obtained by the Raleigh News and Observer reveal that one of those classes - AFAM 280: Blacks in North Carolina - was enrolled exclusively with football players. The class, held in the summer of 2011, lacked any instruction and was added to the summer calendar just days before the opening of the semester.

Of the 54 courses identified as "aberrant" in an internal review by UNC, all but nine were taught by longtime professor Julius Nyang'oro. Nyang'oro resigned as department chairman in September and plans to retire in July. The News and Observer has obtained emails from Nyang'oro regarding the class.

Email correspondence released Friday shows that Nyang'oro went to a professor in his department, Tim McMillan, on June 14 to add AFAM 280 to the summer calendar. McMillan normally teaches the class.

“Sure,” McMillan replied. “How many students will I have?”

“No more than 5,” Nyang'oro responded. “I will be Instructor of record and relieve you of responsibility and bother. A big relief for you?????”

Nyang'oro then talked to Jan Yopp, a journalism professor who also serves as dean for the summer school. On June 16, the day the summer semester began, Yopp sent a notice to Nyang'oro that the class was open for registration.

Four days later, Nyang'oro told her 18 students had enrolled in the class. It makes no mention that all were football players.

“I am totally taken by surprise!” Nyang'oro wrote.

Nyang'oro, the department's sole chairman, allegedly signed a contract with the school that made it clear the class was to be taught in a lecture format. Instead - like many of the classes lacking instruction within the department - the only requirement was the completion of a term paper by the end of the semester.

"While it appears that the academic support staff [for student athletes] were aware that Profressor Nyang'oro didn't intend to teach the class as a standard lecture course, they knew the students would be required to write a 15-page paper," Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a letter to trustees on Thursday. "They saw no reason to question the faculty member's choice of course format."

Thorp said that anytime you have a class of solely student-athletes, "it raises questions." In the letter to the trustees, the Chancellor said that the university is trying to get back the money paid to Nyang'oro for that AFAM 280 class last summer.

"Students in the class wrote papers and were graded," Thorp said. "Nevertheless, Nyang'oro did not meet the University's instructional expectations, and we do not believe that he should have been paid."

According to the News and Observer, standard amount for the summer class was $12,000.

The school has stressed that the issues were department-wide, not just isolated to student-athletes. Records show 42 percent of the enrollments in the suspect classes were non-athletes. The report also includes an enrollment breakdown of the nine suspect classes not taught by Nyang'oro.

The two-pronged NCAA investigation into academic fraud and impermissible benefits resulted in a one-year bowl ban for the upcoming season, the loss of five scholarships per year for three years, and was one of the main reasons for dismissing coach Butch Davis just days after the ACC Football Kickoff in July 2011.

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