North Carolina again faces an NCAA charge for providing improper extra benefits tied to its multi-year academic fraud scandal.
The school on Thursday released a third Notice of Allegations (NOA) from the NCAA that outlines rules violations. The notice, dated Dec. 13, includes rewording a charge that had been removed from the first version filed in May 2015 that was tied to athletes’ access to the irregular courses on the Chapel Hill campus. That charge, originally tied to conduct by academic counselors, now focuses on two former staffers in that department while also citing them for violating “principles of ethical conduct.”
It also restores a reference to football and men’s basketball players using problem courses to help maintain eligibility, which was removed before the second version filed in April. UNC has faced five top-level charges in all three versions, including lack of institutional control, though a charge of failure to monitor from the second notice was incorporated within the institutional-control charge in the third notice.
UNC had appeared before an infractions committee panel in October solely to discuss procedural arguments it had made in response to the second NOA. The school also released a Nov. 28 letter from the NCAA in response to that hearing, notifying UNC that the panel had instructed the enforcement staff to revisit the charges to review whether they “are alleged in a fashion to best decide this case.”
Athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in a conference call on Thursday that the school had “serious concerns” about a process he said “has gotten off track.”
“I have to admit I’m surprised and disappointed by the entire third NOA,” Cunningham said. “Again, I have never seen three notices on the same case. And the charge of the enforcement staff is to investigate and properly assess the facts to bylaws, and to have such a moving target is confounding to me.”
UNC had challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction and said its accreditation agency was the proper authority to handle academic issues as part of its procedural arguments leading to the October hearing. Part of those issues also dealt with how much information should be used from a 2014 investigation conducted by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein into the problems in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department.
Wainstein’s report focused on courses requiring only a research paper or two while offering GPA-boosting grades, with many misidentified as lecture courses that didn’t meet. Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes across numerous sports accounting for roughly half the enrollments.
Three other charges in the third notice remained unchanged, one tied a former women’s basketball academic counselor providing improper help on assignments and one for each of the former AFAM staffers most directly linked to the irregularities for failing to cooperate in the NCAA probe.