Written by Jeff Goodman at ESPN.com
North Carolina avoided major sanctions after the NCAA could not conclude the school violated academic rules when it made available deficient Department of African and Afro-American Studies “paper courses” to the general student body, including student-athletes.
The NCAA said in a release Friday the committee on infractions panel found two violations in this case — the former department chair and a former curriculum secretary failed to cooperate during the investigation.
“While student-athletes likely benefited from the so-called ‘paper courses’ offered by North Carolina, the information available in the record did not establish that the courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes,” said Greg Sankey, the panel’s chief hearing officer and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, in the release. “The panel is troubled by the university’s shifting positions about whether academic fraud occurred on its campus and the credibility of the Cadwalader report, which it distanced itself from after initially supporting the findings. However, NCAA policy is clear. The NCAA defers to its member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred and, ultimately, the panel is bound to making decisions within the rules set by the membership.”
The investigation centered on a system in which a significant percentage of student-athletes took classes that had academic irregularities — and whether that resulted in those athletes receiving an impermissible benefit. The classes were taken by more than 3,100 students — nearly half of them athletes — from 1993 to 2011. However, the investigation was focused from 2002-11.
The independent study-style courses came in the Department of African and Afro-American studies and often required no attendance, grade changes, forged faculty signatures and just one paper at the conclusion of the semester. The athletes were reportedly guided into the classes to help remain academically eligible.
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