UNC says student-athletes did not get 'special arrangements'

(WTVD photo)

CHAPEL HILL - UNC Chapel Hill released its response Thursday to the latest NCAA allegations related to an academic scandal that was first made public in 2010.

The NCAA charged North Carolina with five violations, including a lack of institutional control and failing to sufficiently monitor its academic support program for athletes, in its long-running fraud scandal centered around independent study-style courses in the African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department that were misidentified as lecture courses that required no class time and one or two research papers.

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The courses featured GPA-boosting grades and significant athlete enrollments across numerous sports - including basketball and football - while poor oversight throughout the university allowed them to run unchecked for years. But in its response, UNC said the classes only had a student-athlete enrollment of about 30 percent, and the athletes got the same treatment as the other students in the classes, and so "no special arrangements were made for student-athletes in violation of NCAA extra-benefit legislation. It goes on to say that "there is no allegation that any coach or employee of the Department of Athletics violated a bylaw or directed a student-athlete to take one of these courses." CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL REPORT Former AFAM department chairman Julius Nyang'oro and former office administrator Deborah Crowder are accused of unethical conduct and impermissible benefits. Crowder cooperated with a 2014 investigation by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein into the AFAM irregularities. His report estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes across numerous sports accounting for roughly half the enrollments in the problem courses. Wainstein's report focused blame largely on Crowder and Nyang'oro, noting Crowder graded papers despite being an office administrator and not a faculty member. The NCAA reopened its earlier investigation in the wake of Wainstein's report. The NCAA charged UNC in May 2015 and the school had 90 days to respond, but that process paused shortly before that deadline when the school reported additional information for the NCAA to review. It took eight months for the NCAA to send a second Notice of Allegations (NOA) in April 2016 and jump-start the stalled case. Then, after UNC filed its response last August, the NCAA took the unusual step of scheduling a hearing solely to address procedural issues UNC had raised -- such as challenging the NCAA's jurisdiction by saying its accreditation agency was proper authority to handle the matter. The NCAA then sent a third NOA in December, which reworded an improper-benefits charge tied to athlete access to the courses that had been removed between the first and second versions. Initially tied to conduct by academic counselors, the charge now focuses on Crowder and former department chairman Julius Nyang'oro. ESPN and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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