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The Big Lead Takes On UNC's Academic Scandal

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With some very special attention given to the basketball team.

As much as we would like this to go away, it doesn't show any signs of doing so anytime soon. The Big Lead is the latest media outlet to jump into fray with a piece that focuses on basketball players during the Roy Williams tenure that have majored in African-American studies. The centerpiece for TBL is the presence then departure of Wayne Walden who was an academic adviser for Roy at Kansas and followed the UNC coach back to Chapel Hill. Walden left the position in 2009 and since then there have been no AFAM majors on the basketball team.

So in 2009, a year before the scandal went public, the academic adviser to the basketball team – a team which had a history of players who majored in African and Afro-American Studies – left UNC, as did a longtime administrator in that department. Since the departures of Walden and Crowder, records obtained by the News & Observer (click here for the UNC academic info PDF) show a dramatic drop in athletes majoring in African and Afro-American Studies. We specifically looked at the basketball team’s numbers in that major from when Roy Williams took over in 2003-2004, and here are the numbers we found (African & Afro-American majors/players who had chosen a major):

2003-04 AA 5/13
2004-05 AA 7/13 <—- Won NCAA title.
2005-06 AA 3/11
2006-07 AA 3/15
2007-08 AA 2/12
2008-09 AA 1/16 <— Walden and Crowder left after this school year.
2009-10 AA 0/10
2010-11 AA 0/8
2011-12 AA 0/9

The school has redacted many details in the few documents they have made public (the News & Observer has been all over it), and many others are tied up in court.

One problem. The numbers do not appear to support the premise, as laid out in the headline, that UNC basketball players moved away from AFAM in 2009. The numbers actually indicate the move away from AFAM came well before that. Here is the who and when of UNC basketball players majoring in AFAM(Note: This has been pieced together using this database from the Indy Star and Google searches on individual players. It also assumes players did not declare majors as freshman Marvin Williams being the exception.)

2004- 5: Sean May, Jackie Manuel, David Noel, Jawad Williams, Melvin Scott
2005- 7: Sean May, Jackie Manuel, David Noel, Jawad Williams, Melvin Scott, Reyshawn Terry, Marvin Williams
2006- 3: Reyshawn Terry, Quentin Thomas, David Noel
2007- 3: Quentin Thomas, Mike Copeland, Reyshawn Terry
2008- 2: Mike Copeland, Quentin Thomas
2009- 1: Mike Copeland
2010-2012: None

While I might be accused of being biased here putting names to the numbers would seem to show the opposite of what TBL is alleging. Of the players on this list, only four(Terry, Thomas, Williams and Copeland) began their careers under Roy Williams with the others already at UNC in 2003. Of those four, only three committed to UNC under Roy Williams. Terry was a commit under Matt Doherty a full year before Roy arrived. It also appears the last player to declare an AFAM major was Mike Copeland in 2007 which would have been two years before Walden left not in 2009 which was when Copeland graduated. The point? UNC basketball players began moving away from AFAM majors under Roy Williams and Walden's departure had nothing impact since it had essentially already happened two years before.

There is also the "bombshell" that Walden and Deb Crowder left in 2009 a year before this came to the public light insinuating they left because they knew the rain was coming. In reality it seems like more coincidence than anything else since the AFAM scandal was a by-product of the NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits and improper agent contact. Without the NCAA probe the tutor scandal doesn't come to light and UNC doesn't start digging into AFAM in the first place. In other words, unless Walden and Crowder could see into the future them bailing on the school is not connected to the current crap storm swirling over the university.

Obviously there continues to be troubling aspects to this whole mess and it is touching multiple corners of the university. Whatever went on may ultimately be proven to be detrimental to the basketball program however this piece from TBL doesn't quite get there.