clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Wainstein Report Primer

New, 6 comments
Streeter Lecka

Got questions about the forthcoming release of the Wainstein Report? We've got you covered.

When and where?

The report will be released on Wednesday, October 22nd to a joint meeting of the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and the UNC Board of Trustees. This will be followed by a press conference at 1:00 PM featuring Kenneth Wainstein, Chancellor Carol Folt and UNC president Tom Ross.

Who is Kenneth Wainstein?

Kenneth L. Wainstein is a former Department of Justice attorney now in private practice for a firm in Washington, DC. He has a long history of conducting various internal investigations at corporations. Prior to starting his probe into UNC's academic scandal, Wainstein investigated whether NCAA Enforcement officials acted improperly during the Miami football violations case. Aside from being a high priced attorney, Wainstein is well respected, has no ties to North Carolina and absolutely no reason to sully his own reputation to cover up any wrongdoing up at UNC. And no, just because UNC is footing the bill doesn't mean the report isn't independent.

What exactly is he looking for?

Anything and everything related to UNC's academic fraud scandal stemming from suspect classes in the Department of Africian and Afro-American Studies while Julius Nyang'oro was head of the department. Those classes were presented as lecture style courses but never met and only required a paper. Essentially there were independent studies with questions surrounding how they were administered and graded. Wainstein's investigation includes ascertaining how these classes came to be, how benefited from them and if there was collusion between Nyang'oro and the athletic department in an effort to keep athletes eligible. When the investigation was announced, Chancellor Carol Folt charged Wainstein to "follow the facts wherever they lead." It is widely assumed Wainstein has done that though it is virtually impossible to ever know that for certain.

Wait, hasn't UNC looked into all of this before?

Why yes it has. To date there have been multiple inquiries into the suspect classes in the AFAM department. The first was an internal review by UNC which brought the classes to light(Note: Regardless of what Dan Kane tells you, Mary Willingham didn't blow the whistle on AFAM, UNC found them via an internal review.) Since there there have been reviews by various entities. There was a faculty review which followed the initial Hartlyn-Andrews report. Former Governor Jim Martin did an exhaustive review of the suspect AFAM classes which extended beyond the original four year window discovered by the first inquiry. The report presented much of the "what" in the academic scandal but didn't delve into the motivations or ask question regarding what people knew and when they knew it. Because Martin did not ask "why" the media, led by the News & Observer deemed the report a "whitewash." In addition to these reviews, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Association i.e. the agency which accredits institutions of higher learning, also conducted a review. The NCAA, which investigated UNC football from 2010-2012 before issuing a final report and sanctions was kept abreast of the AFAM scandal findings. That information was known to the NCAA prior to the conclusion of the original investigation. On top of these reviews, there have been investigations by the State Bureau of Investigation into possible fraud committed by Nyang'oro. Those charges were eventually dropped to earn Nyang'oro's cooperation in the Wainstein probe.

Besides the official reviews, the media at large led by Dan Kane and aided by individuals like former learning specialist Mary Willingham and current UNC professor Jay Smith have continued to make numerous accusations but failed to provide any substantive evidence to support those accusations. In fact the closest anyone has some to making a founded accusation was Willingham's since debunked research that UNC had athletes which couldn't read at a college level. There was also evidence offered that multiple members of the 2005 NCAA title team availed themselves of AFAM classes which, in and of itself, wasn't a violation of NCAA rules.

So why is Wainstein investigating what various others already have?

The real reason behind this long and expensive probe is to provide a sense of closure with an exhaustive report the public can accept and Dan Kane cannot dispute. At the same time, the point that Martin's report focused more on data and not the motivations has merit. Wainstein is supposed to be taking the "why" into account and asking the questions Martin did not. Another key distinction between this investigation and others is Wainstein has actually interviewed former AFAM department head Julius Nyang'oro and administrative assistant Deborah Crowder, the central figures in the origination of the suspect classes. Their inclusion in the probe is what led the NCAA to re-open its investigation into UNC's issues. In theory, what Nyang'oro and Crowder have to say will shed light on the motivations behind the suspect AFAM classes and answer if there was some sort of collusion between AFAM and the athletic department.

Regardless of what the report says, this investigation is intended to be the final airing of dirty laundry and provide a sense of closure to the whole sordid mess. That is assuming the NCAA doesn't pile on with additional sanctions and reports.

Speaking of which, any predictions on what the report will say?

It honestly could say anything. The findings of this report are easily the most tightly held in recent years at UNC. As of this writing, there aren't any credible indications one way or the other out there, much less a believable rumor or two. Whichever UNC administrators have seen the report, they aren't discussing it with anyone.

The best case scenario is a few more embarrassing details, especially regarding the lack of oversight in the College of Arts and Sciences plus an assertion athletes made use of the classes along with non-athletes. There may have been some knowledge the classes were easy in the athletic department but nothing that rises to the level of conspiracy. The AFAM classes will be found to have existed to serve other goals Nyang'oro had and athletes simply took advantage of easy classes due to their ease and fit with their respective schedules.

The worst case is some sort of definitive proof athletics knew what was going on and even took part in arranging for those classes to exist. This would require some type of evidence of Nyang'oro acting at the behest of the athletic administration or communicating what he was doing to the athletic administration to give athletes preferential access to those classes. There is also the possibility these classes are deemed to have helped athletes maintain eligibility and the NCAA finding some sort of violation connected to that.

It should be noted that this has been a long investigation covering thousands upon thousands of records, documents, countless hours of interviews with a wide variety of individuals. It is a probe dealing with several years and a myriad of questions. The best bet is a very complicated report open to various interpretations on certain points which will undoubtedly be spun relentlessly by interested parties.

In other words, this type of thing doesn't lend itself to simple predictions. Chances are the findings will be all over the map.

Will this truly bring closure?

Yes and no.

It will for UNC from a PR perspective. The expectation is UNC will declare the school is moving forward with already stated reforms and any new ones stemming from the findings. The administration is basically saying it is done answering every media report that comes out and will pivot any future responses to this report which should cover all the relevant issues.

On the other hand, the NCAA still has an open investigation which will use the Wainstein findings as a part of concluding whether additional action is required. If the Wainstein report doesn't find much in the way of NCAA violations or raise questions outside of what the NCAA has already addressed then some sort of closure to that investigation should come in the near future. That being said, the NCAA can't be seen simply rubber stamping the Wainstein report. The NCAA will do its own inquiry to confirm what Wainstein finds or expand on any open issues.

When you say closure that doesn't include Dan Kane, the media at large or ABCers does it?

Of course not.

Dan Kane, ahead of the report's release, has already laid the foundation for questioning the credibility of the findings. According to Kane, the report must answer a list of questions or it hasn't done the job. Based on those questions, there is a solid chance all of them won't be answered to Kane's satisfaction giving him carte blanche to continue doing what he's been doing. As Doc is fond of saying, being a member of media means never having to say you're sorry. It also means you can keep pounding on a narrative no matter how much that narrative has been disproved and discredited. Kane and Co. are heavily invested in the theory that AFAM functioned as a massive eligibility scheme for UNC athletes and there was collusion between athletics and AFAM to make that happen. Anything short of the report determining that means Kane will keep digging. The report will be dismissed as not having done the job because it didn't produce the expected result. On the other hand, if the report confirms the narrative then the intensity of the coverage will go through the roof.

As for the ABC contingent, nothing short of Wainstein laying out massive NCAA violations that result in the forfeiture of all five of UNC's NCAA titles will be enough. I suppose they would be happy with the 2005 and 2009 banners coming down but in reality they want Chapel Hill burned to ground and the earth salted. Anything less than the report exposing everything they think has happened will be seen as a whitewash for the sake of protecting UNC.

Anything else?

My gut feeling is this isn't going to be pleasant. I don't think it will do tangible damage to the revenue sports or athletics in general. Then again that will be up to the NCAA and what they do is anyone's guess. Most of the damage here is going to be PR in nature with complicated set of findings to unpack. In other words, no one is going to be happy with the results. One group will say it went too far. Another will claim it didn't go far enough. In the end people will cling to their long held dispositions about UNC's situation like grim death seeking any data point in the report to validate it while discounting everything else.