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From 1993 to 2011, approximately 3,100 students at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill — nearly half of them athletes — took courses billed as traditional lecture classes that were in fact no-show classes that required students to simply turn in one paper. Even poorly written, plagiarized papers received As and Bs. That’s just one of the findings in a report by former FBI general counsel Kenneth Wainstein, which was released on Wednesday.
Dan Kane, a member of the investigative team at the News & Observer newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., joined Bill Littlefield to dig deeper into the Wainstein report.
BL: In 2011, you first uncovered academic concerns regarding some UNC football players. Since then widespread problems in the university’s African Studies department and the athletic department have been revealed. What details in this new report stood out particularly to you?
There's been kind of an acknowledgement that this whole..."Carolina Way" -- this sort of mantra at Carolina -- wasn't really true.Dan Kane, News & Observer
DK: Well, first of all, just the fact that this report acknowledges, or proves, that this is an athletic scandal. That's, to me, the most important thing here. Because, for really about three years, the university had been pretty adamant at times, saying that this did not have an athletic motive: this was just a secretary in the African Studies department and the chairman of the department who basically were just, "Anyone needing one of these things come and get it."
But the Wainstein report clearly shows that a lot of this was really driven by the academic support program for student-athletes. They were trying to keep their guys eligible. They kind of pressured Debbie Crowder and Julius Nyang’oro to help them out.
BL: Tell us a little bit about the role of faculty member Jan Boxill.
DK: This is pretty fascinating. She's a former basketball coach, very close to the women's basketball team, and those were the students she generally counseled. She became the faculty leader; she was elected the faculty leader in 2011, just as this academic scandal was starting to break.
[sidebar title="The NCAA's 'Own Universe'" width="630" align="right"] We take a closer look at the NCAA policy that prevents athletes from profiting off their own signatures. [/sidebar]At one point in my digging, I discovered that she had made a substantial alteration to one of the many reviews into this thing. The faculty could try to conduct their own review into what happened and why. I happened to get a prior draft of that report, and there was a pretty interesting change in it with regard to Debbie Crowder. Her name was taken out and her ties to the athletic department, her closeness to athletic officials was removed. And come to find out it was Jan Boxill that had suggested that that be taken out. And what she wrote was along the lines of, "This could bring the NCAA back." And now here's this report, and it turns out Jan was steering athletes to these classes and in a couple cases suggested grades for the papers that they would write.
BL: Well you mention the women's basketball team — it sounds to me like it wasn't just, as far as athletes are concerned, it wasn't just football players and male basketball players.
DK: This was across all sports. I think probably just about every sport had at least a couple of students who were in these things.
BL: This week, you wrote, “Five members of the 2005 championship basketball team accounted for at least 52 classes that were either accurately characterized as independent study or were identified as confirmed or suspected no-show classes.” Roy Williams was the coach of that championship team. He's still the coach. Do you see this scandal creating problems for him?
DK: The report basically says that Roy, when he came here in, I think, 2003, realized that a lot of his players were majoring in this particular department. And, according to the report, he asked questions of Dick Baddour, the athletic director, and it just seems to stop there in terms of getting reported up any further.
[sidebar title="Complete NCAA Coverage" width="630" align="right"] Check out Only A Game's complete coverage of college sports. [/sidebar]What he does do, according to the report, is he kind of tells his staff, "I'm not too crazy about the concentration in this major and I'd kind of like to get these kids in some other areas of study." His academic counselor, a guy by the name of Wayne Walden, who he brought to North Carolina from Kansas — this was a guy he really trusted — Wayne admitted that he knew that Debbie was grading some of these papers. But Wayne Walden says that he doesn't recall telling Roy that.
And then the other thing that's problematic, I think, for them, quite honestly, is that two years ago I asked Roy Williams at a news conference for the start of that season, and I said, "Roy, according to what we know, the basketball team stopped taking these no-show classes in 2009. Was it because Debbie Crowder, the department manager, retired? Or did somebody there have some concerns about what was going on?" And his response was, "Well, it could be something else." And I said, "What?" And he said, "Well, maybe they just had other interests." And so that raises a big question in my mind.
BL: Dan, UNC traditionally is one of those schools that has always claimed to be educating its athletes, and I think most people thought that that was the case. I would gather that this story would seriously damage the university's image.
DK: Well, that's obviously in the eyes of the public, but I think it's fair to say that they have taken a pretty big hit over this. There's been kind of an acknowledgement that this whole, you know, they called it "The Carolina Way" — this sort of mantra at Carolina — wasn't really true.
BL: In 2011, the university fired head football coach Butch Davis and accepted the retirement of athletic director Dick Baddour. But what has the NCAA done about the scandal to date and do you expect more from the NCAA in the coming months?
DK: Butch Davis was fired and Dick Baddour resigned. You had a situation where there were football players where agents were kind of enticing them with various benefits and perks, and that kind of evolved into a mini-academic fraud scandal. The NCAA was heavily involved in that; sanctions were delivered. They had pretty much wrapped that up when I started producing this information about the strange thing that was going on in the African Studies department.
Just before they actually had their hearing, a few months before that. They did bring the NCAA back and they did tell them, "Oh jeez, we've got this thing going on with this African Studies department." But the NCAA basically came back and said, "If this whole scandal was not intended to specifically benefit athletes, then it's really none of our business. It's the university's business." And so now they're back; they've been back since June. This report obviously will give them an awful lot of evidence, but, in terms of knowing what they're going to do, it's very hard to predict.
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This segment aired on October 25, 2014.
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