Death by a thousand cuts and a handful of big ones.
First up, UNC released over 200 pages worth of documents covering the now completed NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic fraud within the Tar Heel football program. You can peruse those pages here and it has been added to the THB NCAA Investigation Archive.
There is nothing new in the heavily redacted pages which were released which includes bills from outside legal counsel, violation reports to the NCAA and interview questions asked during the course of the investigation. Because of the redaction, most of this looks more like a game of Mad Libs than anything else. It is clear which questions are being asked about Jennifer Wiley and we also get a glimpse into how some of the academic fraud occurred with email exchanges showing a tutor telling a football player she had expanded his paper by several pages.
Again, there is nothing really to see here unless you are on Pack Pride then the quest for truth and justice must not rest even if it means taking issue with how Dick Baddour signs his name.
Meanwhile over in the AFAM department, the News and Observer continues its investigation into 54 suspect classes attended by football players and a handful of members from the basketball team. Kane, in what has become a regular Sunday morning feature for him, offered up this piece which is largely a rehash of what we already knew. There were two new tidbits in it however. The first was AFAM department head Julius Nyang'oro apparently wasn't paid for 29 classes. The other was that 44 of the 54 classes were originally stated as having a one enrollment cap on them. Out of those 44 classes, 31 had multiple athletes enroll in them despite the enrollment limit. Obviously this seems a little odd except for the fact there were classes with a one student cap which had no athletes in them. Once again with Kane it all about implying and very little in the way of making direct accusations mainly because the evidence, at this point, does not support direct accusations. All we have right now is a academic department head and a chief administrative assistant gone wild which ended up benefiting athletes but was not necessarily a system constructed for that end solely. Kane even lays out the numbers which say 251 athletes were enrolled in these suspect classes versus 193 non-athletes and 26 former athletes. Yes, that does skew into the majority and yes you can make an argument it skews well beyond the general population numbers but at the same time, it doesn't necessarily make this an athletic department academic fraud issue. The involvement of athletes in these classes looks circumstantially like they might be something to all of this. However there has been no evidence offered to show a connection or conspiracy between AFAM and the athletic department.
That lack of proof and the involvement of non-athletes in these classes could mean the NCAA steers clear of investigating it as the N&O notes has happened in other cases.
White said universities have the autonomy to determine whether academic improprieties rise to the level of an NCAA violation.
"Each institution is in control of their own academic programs, and they have to make the determination as far as what was done, who did it, and what impact it has," he said.
The NCAA, for example, did not get involved when the Ann Arbor News reported in a series in 2008 about a University of Michigan psychology professor who had taught 294 independent studies over a three-year period, with athletes taking up 85 percent of those courses. The university had defended the professor and the courses.
But the association hit Florida State University hard three years ago after a learning specialist and a tutor who worked with athletes had given them improper help, particularly in providing quiz answers for an online music course. Nonathletes also benefited because they also had access to those answers. The NCAA investigation cost the football team athletic scholarships and coach Bobby Bowden a dozen wins.
A case at Auburn University closely resembles what happened at UNC-CH. The NCAA found Auburn University committed minor violations – but not academic fraud – as a result of a sociology professor offering dozens of "directed-reading" courses that did not meet and involved little academic work.
Football players flocked to the classes, which pushed up their grade-point-averages, but nonathletes had taken them as well. The New York Times revealed the courses in 2006.
In other words, the NCAA is willing to get involved if they find tutors giving illicit help to athletes but not for professors offering suspect classes. Why? For one, athletes not doing their own work is pretty cut and dry in terms of academic fraud. Players getting assistance from tutors who are hired to work with them makes it a clear athletic department issue. With professors and classes it is a different animal because you are talking about individuals with tenure and the internal workings of a school's academic department. Plus the NCAA's "prime directive", if you will, is that student-athletes and regular students be treated the same. If there are suspect classes that end up benefiting athletes and non-athletes like, even with skewed numbers, it is not enough to pique the NCAA's attention as the N&O article notes.
It should be said that this scandal is a blight on the University of North Carolina and massive salvo against the academic integrity of the institution. It should, in no way, be minimized or explained away with dealing with what went on in these classes. At the same time, I am of the opinion(biased as it may be) that this is not a second burgeoning NCAA scandal despite the efforts of Kane to fan those flames. The evidence at present simply does not support it and when you take into consideration examples from Michigan and Auburn it would appear that Roy Williams was correct. This isn't an athletic department issues but a university one. Could that change? Sure it could and one of the reasons Kane and the N&O are hitting this topic in the manner they are is in hopes of they connect on something that will blow the whole scandal wide open. No one should begrudge them for than although most of us have grown weary of hearing about and would love for it all to go away as soon as possible.