UNC has released its response to the NCAA's third Notice of Allegations on its Carolina Commitment website after a review to protect privacy rights. The 102-page response begins with a paragraph stating that the narrative "popularized by media accounts" is "wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record."
The introduction ends by stating the NCAA faces challenges to "make a decision on the record" and to avoid influence from the media and other sources, "including Mark Emmert, the President of the NCAA."
Definitions and numbers
Within the response, UNC argues that the courses under review are an academic issue, not an NCAA violation. They support this claim by stating that student-athletes were treated the same way as other students enrolled in the courses.
UNC's response states that student-athletes made up 29.4 percent of enrollment in the courses, compared to the 47.6 percent reported by the Wainstein report. The discrepancy is due to the Wainstein report and UNC's response working off of different definitions of a student-athlete.
"The distinction is between some of the statistics used in a previous report by an outside agency and one that the institution determined as we looked at the data ourselves," UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said.
The Wainstein and Cadwalader, Wickersham and Taft report both counted students who had participated in athletics at any point prior to or during the time they took the courses; UNC's response only includes students who were participating in athletics while taking a course. However, the former athletes may have still had an impact on NCAA postseason eligibility according to some academic metrics.
"When a student athlete graduates, when a student graduate leaves the University, that has an impact on an academic rate," Cunningham said.
"Whether you’re talking about academic progress rate or graduation success rate, or the federal graduation rate, I’m not sure which of those you’re talking about, but certainly they all count in one of those metrics. So the distinction that we’ve made on the statistics are written about in the report and they’re active student athletes on rosters when they took the class."
The Academic Progress Rate is a NCAA metric calculated by student-athletes earning points by remaining eligible to play and by staying in school or graduating. Schools must earn a four-year average APR of 930 (or, from 2004-2015 a two-year average over 940) to remain eligible for post-season play. The 2010-2011 UNC football team recorded the second lowest team APR score of any UNC team since the score was first reported in 2004-2005.
UNC also states that these courses originated within the Department of African and African-American Studies, and that they were established by Julius Nyang’oro and Deborah Crowder, who served as the department chairperson and the department’s Student Services Manager and Secretary respectively at the time, to "appropriately assist students with a wide variety of challenges and interests."
Crowder and Nyang'oro had been mentioned in the first and second Notice of Allegations, but were directly implicated in the third notice as the people who had administered the courses. Crowder released an affidavit in March stating that the accusations against her are untrue. She was interviewed for more than five hours on May 10, according to the response. UNC does not comment on Crowder's cooperation with the investigation in light of this submission, but does agree that Nyang'oro failed to cooperate with the investigation.
UNC also states that some of the allegations against Jan Boxill, who served as an academic advisor for the women's basketball team, were valid, while others were not. UNC contends that the valid allegation occured before the four-year statute of limitations was up and therefore are time-barred. Boxill's scope in the investigation widened in the second and third notice of allegations, jumping from six to 18 examples of wrongdoing on her part, including writing parts of papers for student-athletes.
UNC also calls upon the precedents established at the University of Auburn in 2006 and the University of Michigan in 2008. In a section called "Auburn University Matter," the response cites a New York Times article about sociology and criminology courses offered at Auburn that required no attendance and very little work. The response then goes on to say that Auburn and the NCAA focused their investigation on whether the "instructor at issue had improperly provided student-athletes with grade changes," not the quality of the classes.
"With my experience, with each case is different," Cunningham said. "What we're hoping is that the facts of this case are measured consistently against the bylaws and definitions of the, that have been adopted by the membership."
The response was submitted to the NCAA on UNC's deadline of May 16. Hearings are expected to take place on Aug. 16 and 17, according to Greg Sankey, chairperson of the NCAA Office of the Committees on Infractions.
“We are prepared to work through all of the processes. We have been through a number of reviews and investigations and we stick to the process that the agency we are working with requires," Cunningham said. "Whether it was the FBI or (the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, UNC's accreditation organization) or the NCAA we will exhaust the process to its fullest extent that we can, and then we will see what our options are at that point.”
“We are prepared and look forward to presenting our case to the Committee on Infractions,” Chancellor Carol Folt said in a statement. “Bringing closure to this process will be an important step for our University. The expansive reforms and initiatives now in place at Carolina reflect the academic values of a community that I am proud to lead.”
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