Things just have not gotten easier for North Carolina and athletic director Bubba Cunningham.
The school spent another year dealing with off-field issues, from the eligibility of a top basketball player to a long-running academic scandal and now a reopened NCAA investigation. The Tar Heels also failed to win an Atlantic Coast Conference championship in any sport for the first time.
“We’re wrestling with some of the toughest issues you can wrestle with,” Cunningham said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s taxing on the faculty. It’s taxing on the faculty council. It’s taxing on the coaches, on the students in the classroom. It is something that as an institution, we have to figure out how we can move forward.”
UNC finished 14th in the 2013-14 Directors’ Cup standings of the nation’s top overall sports programs, the first time in six years and the fourth time in the competition’s 21 seasons that it failed to make the top 10. Cunningham pointed to ACC expansion and parity as factors in the title-less season.
“It’s not that the sky is falling,” he said, “but you do need to pay attention and see what we can do to improve performance.”
The highlight was women’s tennis finishing as NCAA runner-up, while men’s tennis reached the final eight, women’s basketball came within a game of the Final Four and field hockey reached the national semifinals. Football — led by Cunningham’s first major hire, Larry Fedora — regrouped from a 1-5 start to win a bowl game.
But much of Cunningham’s third season was spent dealing concerns outside the lines.
The school spent much of 2013 investigating violations by NBA prospect P.J. Hairston before deciding not to seek his reinstatement from the NCAA, ending his college career.
Scrutiny of academics for athletes increased in January when a former UNC learning specialist told CNN that the majority of football and basketball players she studied from 2004-12 read at below-grade levels, though three outside researchers later said the data did not support her findings.
The school also hired former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein to investigate the causes of fraud — first found in 2011 — in the formerly named African and Afro-American (AFAM) department featuring classes with significant athlete enrollments and dating to the 1990s.
Then, in June, former basketball player Rashad McCants from the 2005 NCAA championship team told ESPN that tutors wrote papers for him and coach Roy Williams knew he took some of the AFAM classes in question. Weeks later, the NCAA said it was reopening its probe into academic misconduct because new information was available.
“It certainly has taken longer than I anticipated,” Cunningham said. “In 2011 we all thought we had NCAA issues with agents and amateurism. 2012 is really when the academic challenges arose. In 2013 we had a chancellor leave … so we’ve had a year of transition.
“It has been a long time to see similar issues arise. Now we’re all hopeful that this final report that we’re doing (from Wainstein) … will bring closure to it.”
Cunningham and provost James W. Dean Jr. have also spent the past year leading a review of how UNC handles academics for athletes, from the admissions process to academic support programs and NCAA compliance education. It will last into the fall.
Along the way, UNC has put some facility projects to the side while dealing with everything else.
UNC is looking at updates for an aging Fetzer Field, home to the soccer, lacrosse and outdoor track programs. UNC is also mulling upgrades or even a replacement to the Smith Center, the 21,750-seat home to men’s basketball built in 1986. Both are still in planning stages.
“It’s not always going to be perfect,” Cunningham said. “I think what I have tried to bring to the department is a sense of calm, a sense of consistency that we are moving in a positive direction, that we do have a plan in how we can continue to improve and that we’re working together for a common goal: for these students to have an outstanding experience.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/cunningham-says-school-working-move-forward/
Rashad McCants won’t answer whether he’ll speak with UNC or investigators, but he says the University and the NCAA are prepared to pay him more than $300 million.
The former UNC basketball standout appeared on SiriusXM satellite radio this week saying the NCAA is writing him a check for more than $300 million to help build sports education programs across the country. He said UNC is writing him a check for $10 million for exploiting him while he was on the men’s basketball team and for the lack of education he received.
The more McCants speaks, the less his story seems to be told. This is the fourth time he has spoken out nationally since his first interview on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines”. In that interview, he said that tutors wrote papers for him and he remained eligible only because of “paper classes” that required no attendance – and that his coaches, including head coach Roy Williams, were fully aware of what was going on. He returned to ESPN June 11 with little new information after Williams was interviewed saying he can’t believe what his former player said was taking place.
McCants’ credibility has been called into question since he went behind the mic in June. In a 2004 interview with WRAL, he compared life as a college athlete to being in jail, which he said was originally his uncle’s thought. McCants said, “Once you get out of jail, you’re free. (I’m) in my sentence, and I’m doing my time.” He said he went to class, did all his work, and went to practice and that being a part of that program kept him from doing some of the things non-athletes were able to do in college like vacationing during Fall Break.
He appeared a week later in a press conference with head coach Roy Williams. McCants explained that he was attempting to show how regimented the program was and that he was misunderstood.
Williams shared how angry he was in that press conference saying he told McCants to leave the next practice as soon as he got there. He said he told him, “there (is) a big difference in playing college basketball and being in jail. Like the game Monopoly, I told him I could just give him a ‘Get out of jail free’ card and he could leave.” Williams said he later watched the full ten-minute interview and better understood what he was trying to say. McCants was allowed to come back to practice, and Williams said he didn’t have any other problems with him.
Former Assistant Attorney General for National Security and Homeland Security Advisor, Kenneth Wainstein is conducting an independent external review of UNC’s academic irregularities. He said he reached out to McCants in May requesting an interview. That request was denied, and since McCants’ appearance on ESPN, Wainstein said he has sent another request hoping he is now willing to speak.
The NCAA announced late last month that it has reopened its 2011 investigation into the University. In a statement, athletic director Bubba Cunningham said, “the NCAA has determined that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might now be willing to speak with the enforcement staff.”http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/mccants-awaiting-big-pay-day-unc-ncaa/
A former UNC football player will testify Wednesday during a U.S. Senate committee hearing which is meant to check on the well-being of college athletes.
The News and Observer reports that Devon Ramsay, a fullback who graduated from UNC in 2012, is schedule to testify, along with a former Florida State football player and Rhodes Scholar, Myron Rolle, NCAA President Mark Emmert, civil rights historian and journalist, Taylor Branch, and Richard Southall—who previously led the College Sports Research Institute at UNC and now works at the University of South Carolina. Southall is also listed on former UNC academic advisor Mary Willingham’s research that led to the most recent chapter of the academic scandal at Carolina.
Ramsay was declared ineligible by the NCAA for the 2010 season after finding he received improper financial benefits from agents and improper help form a tutor. However, further investigation found that Ramsay didn’t receive any financial benefits and he only received help on a draft of a paper in which he was given suggestions on how to improve areas of the work.
He returned to the football field the next season for one game, in which he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee in the season-opening victory against James Madison. He was given an additional year of eligibility in 2012, but the knee injury was career-ending.
Mary Willingham was in Washington, D.C. last week to speak with members of congress. However, she told WCHL that she did not have any hearings scheduled yet, and she does not appear on any witness lists at this time.
The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation will start its hearing at 2:30 p.m. For more on the hearing, click here.http://chapelboro.com/sports/national-sports/devon-ramsay-testify-d-c/
Updated 2:53 p.m., July 7, 2014
UNC has reached out to Rashad McCants, according to the News and Observer.
The University’s Senior Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Student-Athlete Development, Vince Ille, confirmed Sunday night that a registered letter was sent to the former UNC basketball standout’s residence on June 6. Senior Associate Athletic Director for Communications Steve Kirschner told WCHL that Ille has since followed up with two text messages. As of Monday afternoon, McCants had not responded.
The letter asks McCants if he will speak with Ille in greater detail about the potential NCAA infractions he says he witnessed while attending UNC.
In an interview that aired June 6, McCants told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” that tutors wrote papers for him and he remained eligible only because of “paper classes” that required no attendance – and that his coaches, including head coach Roy Williams, were fully aware of what was going on. He returned to ESPN June 11 with little new information after Williams was interviewed saying he can’t believe what his former player said was taking place.
This request isn’t the first in the investigation of UNC’s academic irregularities. Former Assistant Attorney General for National Security and Homeland Security Advisor, Kenneth Wainstein is conducting an independent external review. He said he reached out to McCants in May requesting an interview. That request was denied, and since McCants’ appearance on ESPN, Wainstein said he has sent another request hoping he is now willing to speak.
The NCAA announced last week that it has reopened its 2011 investigation into the University. In a statement, athletic director Bubba Cunningham said, “the NCAA has determined that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might now be willing to speak with the enforcement staff.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/unc-requests-interview-mccants/
Originally posted 11:10 a.m., July 1, 2014
Former UNC academic adviser Mary Willingham says she has filed a civil lawsuit against the University and asked the university system’s governing board to reinstate her.
Willingham is known as the whistle blower who told CNN in January that UNC admitted athletes who were not academically eligible, and that, in turn, the University is unjustly using athletes for financial gains. She says now that the NCAA has decided to return to campus, she doesn’t want it to hand out further punishment, but instead to use the opportunity to “reform the entire system.”
Vice Chancellor for Communications and Public Affairs at UNC, Joel Curran said, “The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is aware of the lawsuit filed by former employee Mary Willingham. We respect the right of any current or former employee to speak out on important University and national issues. We believe the facts will demonstrate that Ms. Willingham was treated fairly and appropriately while she was employed at Carolina.”
Willingham told WRAL’s Julia Sims that she has asked to be reinstated by the Board of Governors. In early May, she shared on her website that she had resigned from UNC. She first said she made the decision to leave on April 21 after an hour-long meeting with Chancellor Carol Folt. She said the conversation made her realize there was no more she could do at UNC and that she wanted to continue her fight to correct problems with intercollegiate athletics elsewhere.
Now Willingham says she believes “the NCAA will need some serious help from our historians at UNC (since so many years have passed).”
The NCAA told the University Monday that it has reopened its 2011 investigation that led to punishments handed out to the UNC football team. The team was put on probation until 2015, stripped of 15 scholarships over a three-year period, and ineligible for postseason play for one season.
The intercollegiate association says it reopened the investigation because people who were previously unwilling to speak with them may now be available.
One of those people is former UNC basketball standout Rashad McCants. He told ESPN’s Outside the Lines in early June that tutors wrote papers for him, he remained eligible only because of phony “paper classes”, and that his coaches, including Roy Williams, were fully aware of what was going on.
Former assistant attorney general for national security and partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, Kenneth Wainstein was hired by the University in January to conduct an external review of any and all academic irregularities. In an update of his investigation given to the Board of Governors on June 20, Wainstein said McCants previously declined to be interview. He said, since the ESPN interviews, another request for an interview has been sent to McCants in hopes that he’s now willing to speak.
Wainstein has also been able to speak with Julius Nyang’oro, the former chair of the African and Afro-American Studies department and his department administrator, Deborah Crowder in his review. Those individuals were quiet during the NCAA’s initial investigation and all other inquiries until Wainstein arrived on campus.
Willingham told WCHL that she and UNC history professor Jay Smith are filing their manuscript with their publisher Tuesday morning before she travels to Washington, D.C. There she says she plans to lobby for athletic reform with meetings scheduled all day Wednesday. She says she doesn’t have any hearings scheduled in D.C. at this time.
The book Smith and Willingham are collaborating on is about the history of the academic scandal at UNC in the African and Afro-American studies department and the illiteracy problems at UNC and at colleges and universities across the nation.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/willingham-sues-unc-asks-reinstatement/
Tuesday marks the official first anniversary of the University’s 11th chancellor and first female chancellor. Her entrance was brought on by the departure of Holden Thorp, who served in that seat for five years before his resignation. Thorp is now the Provost at Washington University in St. Louis.
Chancellor Folt took the job knowing that Carolina was in the middle of the biggest academic scandal in the school’s history and on the heels of the NCAA handing out punishment to the football team, including probation until 2015, a one-year postseason ban, and the loss of 15 scholarships over three seasons. Those results stemmed from finding that impermissible benefits were given to members of the UNC football team.
UNC announced Monday that the NCAA has reopened its 2011 investigation based on the possibility of newly available information.
Former North Carolina Governor Jim Martin was hired to conduct a review of the African and Afro-American Studies Department. That report, which was released on December 19, 2012, stated that the issue was isolated to academics solely and was not an athletic problem.
Now, the University is awaiting the results of yet another review. Former assistant attorney general for national security and partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft Kenneth Wainstein was hired by the University in January to conduct an external review of any and all academic irregularities. On June 20 at a UNC Board of Governors meeting, Wainstein made it a point to say he has not been giving the University updates into his investigation in order to protect the integrity of the review. The University has in turn promised Wainstein not to conduct any other investigations until he has concluded the review.
Wainstein says he hopes to have the investigation completed before the start of the Fall 2014 semester.
Chancellor Folt’s first year has been highlighted by new hires. She recently announced the completion of her executive team with the hire of ¬Matthew Fajack as the University’s new chief financial officer and vice chancellor for finance and administration. Her first hire was that of Jim Dean to the Provost position. He was previously the dean of the Kenan Flagler Business School.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/chancellor-folt-one-year-office/
RALEIGH — A prosecutor says he is considering whether to drop a felony fraud charge against a former University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill professor embroiled in a scandal involving academics and athletics.
Orange County district attorney Jim Woodall says Julius Nyang’oro has cooperated with a probe led by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein. Wainstein is looking into the causes of fraud in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies department, where Nyang’oro was chairman.
Nyang’oro was charged with being paid to teach a 2011 lecture class filled with football players that did not meet and required only a research paper.
Woodall’s comments were first reported by The News and Observer. He told The Associated Press his decision could come within the week.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/da-mulls-dropping-ex-unc-professors-fraud-charge/
Story originally posted 10:38 a.m., June 20, 2014
Attorney Kenneth Wainstein told the UNC Board of Governors Friday that not only will he not share findings of his investigation into UNC’s academic irregularities, but that he doesn’t yet have any findings. He says the investigation is ongoing.
“Our investigation is not complete, and until our investigation is complete, we will not have final findings,” Wainstein said. “Those findings, as President Ross said, will be put together into a report, which will be made public at the end of our investigation.”
***Listen to the Complete Update***
That was the first time Wainstein publicly spoke about his investigation.
The 19-year veteran attorney was retained by the University in January after the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and Orange and Chatham County district attorney Jim Woodall concluded their investigations into UNC’s African and Afro-American (AFAM) Studies Department and its chair Julius Nyang’oro.
That investigation led to the indictment of Nyang’oro for receiving $12,000 to teach a lecture course filled with football players that he instead treated as an independent study requiring only a paper in summer 2011. Woodall said no further charges will be made against Nyang’oro or any other person involved.
Nyang’oro has had his first appearance in court, but his trial is still pending. The University said he has returned the $12,000.
Wainstein said he and his associates are using every resource possible to aid in their findings, which is something he said previous investigations into this topic weren’t able to include.
“We’ve interviewed over 80 people so far—a number of them we’ve interviewed more than one occasion,” Wainstein said. “We’ve collected and searched over 1.5 million emails and electronic documents. We’re also analyzing thousands of student records, including transcripts, going back to the early ‘90s and even into the ‘80s.”
On June 6, former UNC basketball standout Rashad McCants went on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” and said that tutors wrote papers for him, he remained eligible only because of phony “paper classes” – and that his coaches, including Roy Williams, were fully aware of what was going on.
McCants comments marked the first time someone associated with the UNC men’s basketball program said it, too, was part of the academic scandal.
Wainstein told reporters Friday that McCants is not among the 80 people who have been interviewed, despite the attempt.
“We’ve intended to speak to him,” Wainstein said. “We actually invited him to come in for an interview back in May. At that time, he declined our invitation. He said that at that time he did not want to speak to us. Then he had his interview and spoke publicly. So, we’re hopeful that that is sort of a changed circumstance that might want him to want to speak to us, so we’ve now sent a new letter reiterating our invitation to speak to him. So, we’re hopeful that that will happen.”
Nyang’oro and a long-time department administrator, Deborah Crowder, have been mostly unavailable for questions leading up to this investigation. However, Wainstein says he has received full cooperation from them.
“In terms of their willingness to sit down with us, they’ve made themselves completely available to us; they’ve given us as much time as we’ve asked for and met with us on every occasion we’ve asked them to meet,” Wainstein said.
Wainstein emphasized that this investigation is completely separate from the University, and that the decision was made to keep it that way in order to protect the integrity of the investigation.
He added that his job is only to investigate the academic irregularities and present a report, but not to suggest a course of action to take based on those findings.
“What they’ll do with that, that’s for them to decide,” Wainstein said. “I heard, this morning, President Ross talking about how he’s looking forward to getting the report and getting the findings and then taking any actions that might be pointed up by any of those findings.”
System President Tom Ross said he couldn’t speak to what kind of actions would be taken, because he doesn’t have the report yet. However, he said that he’s said from the beginning that UNC is ready to take any actions necessary.
“When he’s finished, we’ll take the appropriate steps, and we’ll take whatever additional steps are necessary to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again, and then we’ll move on,” President Ross said.
President Ross told the Board, before Wainstein gave his update Friday, that no limitations were placed on Wainstein’s investigation and that he was instructed to go where the information leads him.
“Chancellor Folt and I directed and gave Mr. Wainstein the full authority to follow the facts wherever they lead and to attempt to address definitively how and why academic irregularities occurred at UNC-Chapel Hill,” President Ross said. “
Wainstein told the Board he chooses to use the term “paper classes” when discussing the focus of the investigation. The media has chosen multiple additional terms, including fake classes and no-show classes. He listed many questions he said he and his associates are using as base questions in the investigation, including a major focus on which classes in the AFAM department were independent studies, what was learned in those classes, if there was any inappropriate assistance in the classes, which personnel on campus knew about the irregularities, and many more.
Wainstein is a partner with the Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft law firm’s Washington branch. He had associates Colleen Kukowski and Joseph Jay in attendance with him, who he said are assisting him in the investigation.
No timeframe was given for the conclusion of the investigation, but Wainstein said he hopes to have the investigation wrapped up before the start of the fall semester.
UNC system spokesperson Joni Worthington said the University has not yet received any bills from Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/wainstein-dont-findings-yet/
UNC will receive a “high-level” update at Friday’s Board of Governors meeting from the investigator hired to conduct an independent investigation into the University’s past academic and athletic irregularities.
The University hired former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein in January to conduct the investigation.
Wainstein has informed UNC that no factual findings will be shared in the update, because his investigation is not yet complete. He has told the University that he hopes to have the investigation concluded before classes begin this fall.
In response to a request for a statement from UNC about the latest in the investigation and the academic scandal, the University released the following:
“At this time, we think it is best to allow Ken Wainstein to continue his work without the University creating a concurrent review of every claim that arises. Once Mr. Wainstein has completed his work, and makes that public, we will be very interested in sharing our plans for moving forward.”http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-receive-wainstein-update/
Rashad McCants isn’t backing down with his side of the story claiming the UNC men’s basketball team is connected in the academic scandal, but he says the media is highlighting the wrong part of the story.
“It’s not about me, it’s about the future generation of all student-athletes,” McCants said in an interview with Andy Katz on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” Wednesday. “I feel like the media’s perpetuating this joust between myself and Roy Williams and the basketball program. It’s not about that.”
***Listen to the Interview***
The former UNC men’s basketball star, who was on the 2005 National Championship team, originally appeared on “Outside the Lines” Friday as the first basketball player to address a connection between that sport at UNC and the academic scandal. He was also the first to claim that head coach Roy Williams had knowledge of the issue.
The night following McCants’ interview, 16 former teammates wrote a letter in support of Coach Williams denying any connection.
McCants says those players should be held accountable.
“Show your transcripts,” McCants says.
UNC School of Journalism professor, Charlie Tuggle also said recently on WCHL that those former UNC athletes should release their transcripts to backup their statement: click here.
Former UNC academic advisor, Mary Willingham has also shared that sentiment.
— Mary Willingham (@paperclassinc) April 5, 2014
Wednesday, McCants spread some of the heat out to other members involved as well, saying Coach Williams wasn’t the only one to blame.
“Steve (Delsohn) did not ask how much did I think Matt Doherty knew about these paper classes,” McCants says. “Matt Doherty was the coach before Roy Williams. This doesn’t just hold true to Roy Williams and point the finger at him because he’s a Hall-of-Fame coach. This is a system, and everybody plays a part in the system. So, everybody’s accountable, whether it’s Roy, whether it’s Dean (Smith), whether it’s whoever at any institution.”
While McCants was pointing fingers at those he says were orchestrating the actions, he says he takes responsibility only because of his naivety.
“How much responsibility do you bear in your own admitted academic fraud within this situation?” Katz asks McCants.
“A hundred percent,” McCants responds. “I was a participant, but I was also 17 years old. I was being ushered into a system that I thought was a part of the system.”http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/accountability/