The world got a look this week at a final "paper" that earned a North Carolina football player an A-minus in a class called "AFAM 41," contributing visual evidence to the claims made by whistleblower Mary Willingham in the deep-rooted academic fraud scandal that hit the university a few years back.
Here's the full segment produced by ESPN:
And here's a tweet with a screenshot of the essay:
Whistleblower says UNC put athletes in classes that never met and required only one final paper. This one got an A-. pic.twitter.com/HShyr6ivGm— Bryan Armen Graham (@BryanAGraham) March 26, 2014
As explained in the ESPN segment, North Carolina football players were allegedly put into "paper classes" in the African-American Studies department that didn't require regular attendance and gave a passing grade to anyone with a functional third-grade reading level.
Former player Deunta Williams said his advisor, of all people, first tipped him off to the classes. Williams told ESPN, "Their job isn't necessarily to make Deunta Williams a better person. A smarter person. Their job...is to make sure I'm eligible to play."
If the final paper above truly earned an A-minus—or anything other than a fat, red zero and a "see me after class"—it is hard to dispute Williams' claim. Or, for that matter, the claims of other whistleblowers at UNC that have come before him.
Dan Kane of The News & Observer tells the story of former football player Michael McAdoo, who says he was misled and eventually kicked off the team for academic fraud in 2010:
Michael McAdoo was kicked off the Tar Heel football team in 2010 because of violations related to having a tutor do improper work on three term papers. When he sued to get back on a year later, claiming a breach of contract, the university fought back: It had kept him on his athletic scholarship.
Indeed, he said, he was in a class – AFAM 280: Blacks in North Carolina. It, too, like the three tied up in the NCAA investigation, never met. It was a no-show class, one that has led to a fraud charge against Julius Nyang’oro, the former African and Afro-American Studies chairman who was supposed to teach it. The class was filled with football players.
“They pretty much put me in that class,” McAdoo said of the counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes. “They pretty much told me ... that I might want to consider that class and I really don’t have much time to think about it, so (I might) want to take that class while it was available.”
Though the case at UNC is more than five years old, it is in the news again for a number of reasons.
For one, it has a trial date in June, so this testimony is pertinent to the next few months. For another, Northwestern football players were just approved to unionize by the National Labor Relations Board, which has thus declared them employees of the university.
In its argument against such unionization, the NCAA has always championed a policy of amateurism. These players are collegiate students first, it says, and collegiate athletes second.
This is pretty damning evidence—at least for UNC—to the contrary.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT