North Carolina Academic Fraud Investigation Implicates over 3,000 Students

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIOctober 22, 2014

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Updates from Tuesday, Nov. 18

The academic fraud scandal is proving to be rather costly for North Carolina according to Dan Kane of newsobserver.com:

The amount of money UNC is spending on outside public relations in the wake of the academic fraud scandal is crossing past $2 million.

A copy of the contract provided under a public records request shows Edelman will receive more than $1.65 million for public relations services over the period of a year, ending April 30, 2015. The contract is not specific as to what kinds of services the firm will provide, but UNC officials confirmed last month that at least 14 employees from the firm worked on the public release of former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein’s report on the scandal.


Updates from Friday, Oct. 31

North Carolina women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell talked about the scandal, according to Harold Gutmann of the Chapel Hill Herald-Sun:

“I really don’t know anything about it, to be honest with you,” Hatchell said Friday in her first interview since a school-funded investigation uncovered phony classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies Department from 1993-2011. “They interviewed me, but there was nothing to tell them.”


“I’m not sure what to feel,” Hatchell said. “I can read reports like everyone else, but also I have 29 years of a relationship with a person that I think the world of. Why do you think her peers were so adamant about her being the head of the faculty? All I can go on is my experience and my gut feeling… there’s no one I’ve worked with on this campus that’s more ethical than Jan Boxill.

“Jan’s my friend and she’ll always be my friend. I don’t turn my back on people.”

Updates from Wednesday, Oct. 29

It's pretty clear North Carolina is taking the academic fraud investigation pretty seriously as evidence by the amount of money the university is spending on a public relations firm according to Dan Kane of newsobserver.com:

The public relations costs for UNC as it seeks to manage the fallout from the long-running academic-athletic scandal continue to climb. A firm hired several months ago to help with the scandal and other communications efforts has billed the school $782,000.

Edelman identifies itself as the world’s largest public relations firm. Last week, the News & Observer reported that the firm had at least 14 employees assigned to work the response to a blistering report by a former top U.S. Justice Department official that found the scandal was largely driven by the need to keep athletes eligible to play sports.

Updates from Monday, Oct. 27

Michael Marot of the Associated Press passed along comments from Mark Emmert on the North Carolina academic fraud investigation:

NCAA President Mark Emmert says the findings of a report into alleged academic fraud at the University of North Carolina are "deeply troubling" and "absolutely disturbing."

The 20-minute interview with The Associated Press marked the first time he has commented publicly since Kenneth Wainstein's report was released last Wednesday.

Updates from Saturday, Oct. 25 

Brett McMurphy of ESPN provides an update on North Carolina's academic fraud allegations:

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Updates from Friday, Oct. 24 

Inside Carolina and Andrew Carter of The News and Observer provides comments from Roy Williams, who spoke about the UNC academic fraud allegations:

UNC Tar Heels Athletics provides the full press conference:

Original Text:

A 131-page report on the findings of the University of North Carolina's alleged academic fraud to benefit 3,100 students, 47 percent of whom were athletes, was released Wednesday.

Independent investigator Kenneth Wainstein led the effort to get to the bottom of what transpired in Chapel Hill over the course of nearly three decades.      

Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports reported on the big news, noting that 10 players from UNC basketball's 2005 national title-winning squad were African-American studies majors.

From 1993 to 2011, the university's African and Afro-American classes aided students to the point of keeping them on course to graduate or to grant them academic eligibility for athletics. The activity was led by now-retired department secretary Deborah Crowder.

This is according to what The Washington Post's Chuck Culpepper discovered from Wednesday's investigation release.

The following snapshot from Yahoo Sports' Rand Getlin (h/t CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon) summarizes those details with further clarity:

Culpepper also documented what new UNC chancellor Carol Folt had to say about the "paper classes" that athletes and other benefiting students didn't even have to show up for.

"That this would have gone so far that an administrator (and not a faculty member) would be assigning a grade, it was such a shock," said Folt.

Sara Ganim of CNN provided the scope of the fraud and the discipline for those who took part in the scandal:

In all, the report estimates, at least 3,100 students took the paper classes, but adds the number "very likely falls far short of the true number."


Four employees have been fired and five more disciplined because of their roles. One other former employee had honorary status removed, Chancellor Carol Folt said Wednesday.

Ganim went on to detail the potential impact on North Carolina's athletics department, in particular the basketball team:

In the past 18 years, UNC has won three national championships for college basketball -- in 1993, 2005 and 2009 -- that could be in jeopardy along with countless wins.


During the Smith years, 1961 to 1997, the report says there were 54 basketball players enrolled in paper classes. Although the paper classes did start in the spring of 1993, the year of Smith's final championship, grades would not have been entered until after the championship game was played.

The Nation's Dave Zirin weighed in on the situation:

Bomani Jones of ESPN offered his take:

ESPN Outside the Lines host Bob Ley tweeted a couple other key details regarding the men's basketball and football programs:

Although paying high-profile student-athletes for the revenue they generate for the school and athletic department has been a hot-button issue, this academic calamity reportedly includes non-athletes too.

It remains to be seen whether the NCAA will step in and hand down sanctions to the university. For such a long-ranging and widespread purported scandal, UNC has the opportunity to exact its own disciplinary measures without interference from collegiate sports' top governing body.