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NOA response focus of Faculty Athletics Committee

Bubba Cunningham had to think about every single word of his presentation to the Faculty Athletics Committee Thursday.

Taking extra pauses to ensure he didn't reveal confidential information, Cunningham, the director of athletics, answered questions on the impending response to the NCAA's notice of allegations, which cited UNC for five potential level one violations, including a lack of institutional control. 

The NCAA sent its notice to UNC in late May, and the deadline for the University to respond is Tuesday — the first day of undergraduate classes for the semester. 

The NCAA limits the information that can be made public during an investigation, so Cunningham's hands were tied when faculty members inquired about what the response contains as well as the process of releasing the response.

He did however make one fact very clear.

"There are zero allegations of academic fraud (from the NCAA)," he said. 

The notice, he said, mentions "improper benefits" given to student-athletes, but never categorizes it as academic fraud. 

UNC's response allows for the University to make their case for each of the claims, some of which Cunningham said were not defensible.

Two of the five violations relate to the actions of Julius Nyang'oro, the former chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, and his secretary, Deborah Crowder, who ran a paper class scheme in the department for nearly two decades. 

"We can't really argue that," Cunningham said. "There's factual evidence there."

Cunningham even admitted that UNC partially agreed with the NCAA on two other allegations about improper benefits and illegal tutoring, but notably left out the biggest violation of them all: the lack of institutional control.

This charge from the NCAA alleges the University did not monitor the activities of former faculty chairwoman Jan Boxill, Nyang'oro and Crowder. Cunningham did not mention what the University's response will say to this specific allegation, but the most important allegation will be the most contested by UNC. 

"Specifically, individuals in the academic administration on campus, particularly in the College of Arts and Sciences, did not sufficiently monitor the AFRI/AFAM and ASPSA departments or provide appropriate supervision for these academic units and their staffs," the notice said.

Jim Gregory, UNC's director of media relations, said the response will be redacted before being released to the public. The goal, he said, is to make the response public within hours of UNC turning it into the NCAA, but it is also possible it will be released in the days following the deadline. 

He said the response will be "50-something pages." 

After the University submits its response, the NCAA enforcement staff will publish a summary of the University's response in preparation for UNC's hearing with the NCAA's committee on infractions. The hearing, Cunningham said, will most likely take place at the end of the calendar year with penalties from the committee coming six to eight weeks later. 

UNC can appeal any penalties, Cunningham said, but he did not describe the appeals process.

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