Monday, July 28, 2014

UNC scandal: The questions that demand attention

As many know by way of the book Tarnished Heels: How Unethical Actions and Deliberate Deceit Ended “The Carolina Way”, several years were spent researching the various academic and athletic issues associated with the multifaceted scandal that has enveloped the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  As alluded to in the "Author's Note" that concludes the book, my motive for undertaking the project was simple: I share many of the same beliefs as Dr. Bill Friday, founder of the Knight Commission and long time president of the UNC system.  I have very strong feelings about our nation’s educational system and believe that integrity and personal responsibility are two character traits that are the foundation of any respectable academic endeavor.  As I began following the story coming out of Chapel Hill, it because obvious, as Tarnished Heels documents, that UNC has chosen to place athletic/academic dishonor above those two aforementioned core character traits.  It is unacceptable for the nation’s oldest public university to be sending a message that winning is all that matters, and that how you achieve that goal is inconsequential.  I feel that the damaging, trickle-down effect such a message has on our country’s youth is shameful.

Given the breadth of what is yet to be known regarding the scandal, there is ample opportunity for others to contribute to our understanding of what has become the most fascinating case study of the battle between big time athletics and tier 1 academics.  I invite sports fans, academics, and others in the general public to consider what is yet to be known.  Compiled below is a list of 133 questions that remain unanswered.  Taken from the ends of the chapters in Tarnished Heels, the questions span athletics, academics, and the many points where the two topics often overlapped at UNC.  While not necessarily a road map, the list might serve as fodder for further thought by those interested in a story that continues to unfold.  The book goes into much greater detail, providing specific dates, documents, and timelines that lead to the necessary asking of each and every essential question.  Sadly, it is a tale of broken ethics, but demands the attention of any honorable and responsible adult who is concerned about our nation's educational future.

-- The essential (and unanswered) questions: 

From the chapters of Tarnished Heels, available for purchase at

Chapter One: Marvin Austin’s Tweet; Initial NCAA interviews
Was there more to Marvin Austin’s sudden recruiting affinity towards UNC than simply meeting head coach Butch Davis at a Washington, DC function?
Did members of UNC’s staff other than John Blake have connections with sports agents?
Why were the (public) social media accounts of UNC players not being adequately monitored by the school?
Why were John Blake’s school-issued phone records not being adequately monitored by the school?
Did Blake forewarn members of the football team regarding the impending NCAA interviews?

Chapter Two: John Blake resigns; Football players suspended
Did the heavy representation of UNC graduates on the Board of Governors play a role (at any time) during the scandal?
Why did the university choose to pay John Blake nearly $75,000 in pay that he had, by all indications, not earned?
What larger role (if any) did people like Norris McCleary and Johnny Vines play with regards to the football issues?
Why did the team allow a former player – who had been kicked out of the program years prior – to have on-facility access to their current players?
Why did head coach Butch Davis personally hire a former UNC tutor – even after it was known that the tutor had essentially been fired by the university?

Chapter Three: Parking tickets; Tutor Jennifer Wiley
Why did the university fight and delay the release of so many public records (a practice that continues well into 2014), despite the continued insistence by its
leaders that they want to fix the problems within their athletic programs?
What did Jennifer Wiley’s lawyer know (in 2012) regarding her illegal funneling of money to UNC players?
Why would a head coach hire a former university tutor – a tutor whose prior university employment had been discontinued by the school due to her becoming “too close” to players (on his very own team)?
Were/are there deeper connections between UNC athletes and Durham felons regarding the use of vehicles?

Chapter Four: McAdoo’s plagiarism; Butch Davis fired
How did Michael McAdoo’s professor miss the plagiarism? How did the honor court and the school’s athletic director miss it? Was it a case (amongst one or more of those entities) of simply choosing to not notice/acknowledge it?
Based on faculty survey responses, how long had UNC athletes possibly been receiving preferential treatment in the school’s honor court system?
Why would the school choose to pay fired head coach Butch Davis $2.7 million, when apparently they had the legal right to withhold that money? What would be the advantage to “pay him to go away”? And was this decision in any way related to the impending release of his personal cell phone records?

Chapter Five: Marvin Austin’s transcript; Julius Nyang’oro; Carl Carey
Who was ultimately responsible for enrolling/allowing Austin to take (and receive a
high grade in) a 400-level class?
Why wasn’t there more institutional oversight regarding the extremely questionable hiring of a professional sports agent to teach an on-campus class?
How close was Carl Carey’s relationship with Julius Nyang’oro – not only when he was hired in the summer of 2011, but also back when Carey taught in the department in the early 2000’s?

Chapter Six: Football penalties
Why would the school choose to publicly flaunt a Division Championship, and also purchase championship rings for the players on its football team, all while being banned from postseason play – which included the ACC Championship Game?
Even after being informed to do so by the NCAA, why would the school not take the (apparently adequate) steps to “educate its athletes, coaches, and relevant school personnel on NCAA rules and regulations?”
Considering that the “institution” was placed on three-year’s probation, would the future violations that would be uncovered in 2012 and 2013 lead to stricter NCAA penalties on the school – due to UNC still being within its probationary period?

Chapter Seven: Academic fraud; AFAM grade changes; Deborah Crowder
Who changed the grades for the students?
Who forged the professors’ signatures?
Who was ultimately paid for the various classes where the teacher was “unknown”?
How many athletes took part in the fraudulent classes, and for which sports?
Did those grades affect their GPA’s, and if deemed impermissible, then retroactively their eligibility?
Had the matter been pursued, would team wins need to vacated, even if it meant National Championships?
Even though Deborah Crowder retired in 2009, the fraudulent AFAM anomalies continued for at least two more years. Was Nyang’oro solely responsible? If not, who else played a role in the improprieties now that Crowder was gone?
Why did the university and its on-staff investigators refuse to ask the above questions, and seek answers in a manner that would appear to uphold the honorable and high standards it had long claimed to hold for the institution?

Chapter Eight: No-show classes; Internal report reveals more academic fraud
Why weren’t papers from athletes in other AFAM classes ever checked for the same types of plagiarism that showed up in Michael McAdoo’s assignment?
How had the university managed for years to overlook dozens of unsupervised courses?
Who was ultimately responsible for the decision to only go as far back as 2007 in the initial AFAM report?
Why did the school seek restitution for only one of Nyang’oro’s improperly-taught classes?
Why didn’t the university simply look at past students’ transcripts if they wanted information on older AFAM courses and grades?
Why were the information and data gathered from the student interviews (conducted during the AFAM report) never released?
Why did Professor Nyang’oro agree to teach (or at least have his name connected to) so many classes filled primarily with athletes, yet apparently do so without compensation?
Why did the university refuse to state what its interviews with Nyang’oro had revealed regarding the originations and motives behind the fraudulent, athlete-filled classes?
Why did Chancellor Thorp and others in positions of leadership offer full transparency and cooperation in 2010 during the football portion of the scandal, but then in 2012 block the release of so much pertinent information?
Why was Deborah Crowder never contacted and interviewed by the school? Or if she was, why was the resulting information withheld from the public?
Why had the school purposely avoided mentioning Deborah Crowder’s personal ties to the basketball program?
Did the athletes who eventually enrolled in the “one-seat-maximum” courses benefit, in terms of athletic eligibility, from the fraudulent classes and final grades they received?
Why did the athletics department fund an academic support program that was supposed to be run by the College of Arts and Sciences?

Chapter Nine: The Julius Peppers transcript
Why did the university refuse to look into a student’s claim that he took a no-show course in AFAM in 2005, which was two years prior to the earliest search parameter of the school’s internal review?
Why would the university not take the time to verify if the “test transcript” that had been brought to its attention actually belonged to a real student?
Why was a messageboard user able to research and connect the test transcript to Julius Peppers in a matter of hours, yet the school had been unable – or unwilling – to previously come to the same conclusion?
How many of the nearly 20 AFAM courses that Peppers took during his college career – courses that were responsible for allowing him to remain eligible to participate in athletics – were fraudulent?
Why was the NCAA remaining silent regarding obvious and blatant instances of academic fraud involving athletes?
Why was Professor Jay Smith the only UNC faculty member willing to speak out regarding the embarrassment that athletics continued to cause the university?

Chapter Ten: The basketball program’s ties to AFAM; Wayne Walden
Why had Florida State been forced by the NCAA to vacate numerous victories due to an academic scandal that was essentially much narrower in scope than UNC’s – yet the NCAA had thus far skipped judgment on the Tar Heel program?
Was the NCAA’s penalizing of Penn State a public-relations move, or would they be consistent and treat other schools which blatantly placed athletics above academics the same way?
Based on Roy Williams’ references of “past mistakes,” how much had he truly known beforehand about his players’ involvement in the over decade-long AFAM academic scandal?
Why had the NCAA not investigated the suspicious pattern of athlete “clustering” at UNC when it was reported in the mainstream media in April of 2010?
How many of the seven AFAM majors on UNC’s 2005 basketball National Title team had taken a fraudulent course at the university?
How many of those players’ transcripts, if investigated and reviewed by the NCAA, would have shown strikingly similar class and grade patterns as the transcript of Julius Peppers?
As an investigative result of the above two questions, how many of those players would have then been retroactively ineligible to participate in sports while at the UNC, meaning any victories in which they had participated would need to be vacated?
To what extent was academic adviser Wayne Walden involved in the scheduling of basketball players in AFAM classes that were possibly known (within the UNC infrastructure) to be fraudulent?
How would UNC’s yearly Academic Progress Rates (APR’s) looked without the benefit of the potentially numerous fraudulent AFAM courses?

Chapter Eleven: Martin investigation announced; Robert Mercer, Harold Woodard, and Vince Ille
When already faced with heavy public scrutiny and criticism over their lax handling of the academic fraud case, why would UNC choose a person to lead an investigation who had such close past connections with individuals and aspects of the school?
Why had Chancellor Holden Thorp and the school refused to reveal what the reviewed athlete transcripts in early 2012 had revealed?
Why had the university refused to provide class and grade information for athletes, even in safely-censored formats?
What possible knowledge of (and/or connection to) the AFAM academic scandal was Robert Mercer associated with?
Since Harold Woodard has once been a lecturer in Julius Nyang’oro’s department, how close was Woodard’s connection to the disgraced former AFAM chairman?
Did UNC in part hire Vince Ille due to his close associations with current NCAA personnel?
Why was the NCAA still choosing to ignore the academic scandal at UNC – one which had clearly benefitted athletes and their eligibility?

Chapter Twelve: Matt Kupec and Tami Hansbrough; Thorp’s announced resignation
Was basketball star Tyler Hansbrough’s return to school (for his senior season) in any way connected to his mother being hired by the university, or vice versa?
Should Tami Hansbrough’s personal trips with Matt Kupec that used university funds be viewed as an impermissible benefit, since some of those trips occurred while her son was still attending the school and participating in athletics?
What role, if any, did Matt Kupec’s fundraising efforts for the Sonja Haynes Stone Black Cultural Center have in his almost immediately-following rise to the position of Vice Chancellor for University Advancement?
What influential role, if any, did “volunteer leader” Dean Smith play in the promotion and support of the new Cultural Center?
Had they not been stonewalled and withheld by the university, what would the Dental Foundation records have shown regarding the impermissible use of university funds by Kupec, Hansbrough, or possibly others?
Was the timing of Holden Thorp’s resignation announcement in large part dictated by facts he had been made aware of by the media – facts containing the information regarding trips he took with Kupec and Hansbrough on private planes?
Was there a veiled meaning when Wade Smith, Matt Kupec’s lawyer, said that it “would be unwise” to criminally charge his client?
Why did Matt Kupec resign without any apparent argument or attempt to keep his job?

Chapter Thirteen: The Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes; More academic fraud; Basketball and NAVS 302.
Would Butch Davis’ phone records have shown other anomalies had their timeframe included his full tenure at the school?
How had the university managed to overlook the no-show AFRI 370 class in its earlier internal review, and how many other courses were similarly missed?
Historical evidence showed that not only did Swahili have multiple fraudulent courses in its curriculum, but also the strong tendency of basketball and football players to take it in order to fulfill their Foreign Language requirement. Considering that evidence, why wasn’t a closer look taken in order to determine if Swahili was an aberrant curriculum that existed at least in part for the benefit of UNC’s athletes?
Why would virtually every current and former tutor within the Academic Support Program for Student Athletes (that was contacted by the press) decline to publicly comment on his/her past interactions with athletes?
Despite “clustering” being a major red flag to most universities with regards to their major-sports athletes, why hadn’t UNC shown concern when six of its men’s basketball players all enrolled in a Naval Weapons class that had apparently never been taken by any members of the basketball program in the past?
Did the fact that an instructor was getting his MBA degree from UNC have any bearing on his teaching an overly lax course at the same time, which also happened to contain nearly 80% athletes and almost half of the school’s basketball team?
Despite quotes from numerous experts on NCAA matters that said the Association should return and reopen its investigation of UNC, why did that not happen after the most recent athletic/academic discoveries?
Why were the emails and phone records of Julius Nyang’oro and Deborah Crowder never meticulously examined by former Governor Jim Martin and his team?
Despite those early, clear signs that Martin may have lacked the investigative skills to adequately determine the true depth of the fraudulent issues at UNC, why didn’t the school, its Board of Trustees, or the system’s Board of Governors step in to correct
the mistake of whom UNC had chosen to lead the review?
Why was no eligibility action ever taken against Erik Highsmith even though there was a documented case of him committing plagiarism?
Despite multiple past examples of UNC athletes plagiarizing their school work, why didn’t any of the various ongoing investigations feel a need to gather more data on that important issue?

Chapter Fourteen: Mary Willingham; AFAM independent studies; The Faculty Committee on Athletics
Why had virtually every member of UNC’s faculty and academic staff, which numbered over 3,000, chosen to remain silent regarding the ongoing athletic/academic scandal that had encompassed the school for more than two years?
Why had no one at the university taken Mary Willingham’s initial claims of plagiarism seriously?
Despite apparent attempts to change the academic culture within UNC’s basketball program and to do things on the “up and up,” why had Jennifer Townsend refused to comment for any of the News and Observer’s articles?
The NCAA never spoke to Mary Willingham during its 2010 investigation into the school. Did university officials even tell the NCAA about her past observations of cheating?
Why were so many associated with the UNC Board of Governors and the UNC Board of Trustees unwilling to publicly demand answers to the roots of the ongoing scandals at UNC?
Why had Amy Herman been advised by school officials to avoid creating documents that would have been subject to the state’s open records law?
In 2006, did the Faculty Committee on Athletics take a true and thorough look into the high number of Independent Study enrollments? And if so, then how did they apparently miss the disproportionately large number of basketball players who were taking those questionable courses?
Did the connections between some members of the Faculty Committee on Athletics and the school’s basketball program have anything to do with the lack of attention that was drawn to the Independent Study courses?
The preceding two questions are both based on assumptions that the Faculty Committee on Athletics had truly been informed of concerns regarding athletes and Independent Studies. Was that the actual case?
Were players enrolled in the possibly fraudulent Independent Study courses solely for the purpose of raising their GPA’s – so that in turn they would remain eligible to compete in athletics?
Players from UNC’s 2005 National Championship basketball team took 15 Independent Study courses that year. How many of those 15 courses were potentially fraudulent, yet kept them eligible to compete athletically?
Despite the abundance of information from Mary Willingham and also the Independent Study data from 2001-2006, all of which pointed to directed cheating meant to benefit athletes and potentially their eligibility, why had the NCAA still refused to address the matter?

Chapter Fifteen: Martin report released; Immediate criticism and debunking; Baker-Tilly’s retraction
Why hadn’t Martin’s report shown how many of the 560 unauthorized grade changes since 1994 had benefited athletes and their eligibility?
Why did Martin say he and his team had “run out of time” for their investigation, yet only days earlier there hadn’t been any indication of a time limit?
Why didn’t Martin thoroughly check the email and phone records of the two individuals he presumed were the cause of the academic fraud? Was it to avoid discovering intent?
Was that the same reason why he didn’t interview any current or former basketball players or coaches?
Was that the same reason why he hadn’t inspected any individual student transcripts?
Why had Martin interviewed only one member of the past Faculty Athletic Committees, despite meetings from those committees being vital to the validity of his
overall findings?
There were several stark contradictions between UNC administrators and faculty members. Who was telling the truth?
What, exactly, had Martin and his team been asked to investigate – and by whom? And more importantly, were there aspects of the scandal they had been told to avoid?
Why had the NCAA opted to “continue to talk more with North Carolina” as opposed to simply reopening an investigation and getting some factual answers for itself?

Chapter Sixteen: Further depth of the academic scandal; Robert Mercer; Board of Governors; SACS
Through the use of nearly one million dollars from private donations, had UNC essentially paid Baker Tilly to try and absolve athletics from primary responsibility in its academic scandal?
Considering that athletes received an average grade of nearly an A minus in 172 fraudulent courses, why hadn’t further research been conducted to determine the effects of those fictitious grades on those athletes’ eligibility?
Like Martin and his team, why had the Board of Governors also neglected to closely scrutinize the email and phone records of Julius Nyang’oro and Deborah Crowder?
Once the BOG conceded that they were not an “investigative body” and were unable to uncover the answers to key questions (just as Martin and his team had been unable to do), why wouldn’t they insist on the hiring of a true, skilled investigator to look into those matters?
What possible motive would Robert Mercer, at the time the director for academic support for athletics, have for failing to track independent study courses as he had been asked to do?

Chapter Seventeen: Public documents; Sunshine Day
Had UNC intentionally delayed and/or stonewalled the release of documents in an attempt to limit the damages caused by the ongoing scandals?
Despite charging UNC nearly one million dollars for its services, why had Baker Tilly not been able to find the time to closely examine paper records that existed prior to 2001?
Why had UNC continued to delay and withhold public documents, even after the chairman of its own Board of Trustees told university officials to be forthcoming and timely in responding to records requests?

Chapter Eighteen: Carol Folt; Jan Boxill; James Moeser; Nyang’oro and Crowder emails; Public relations firms
Why did the faculty authors of a July 2012 report allow their wording (in reference to Deborah Crowder) to be changed?
Other than free tickets and food, did Julius Nyang’oro receive any other gifts from athletic personnel in exchange for academic favors?
Why would Crowder be concerned that frat students were signing up for AFAM independent studies courses?
Why did athletic tutor Suzanne Dirr submit paper topics directly to Crowder – who wasn’t even a faculty member?
Why did none of the school’s prior investigations mention the revealing and damaging email exchanges conducted by Nyang’oro and/or Crowder?
Why did the university refuse to release the remainder of the Nyang’oro and Crowder emails, even in redacted form?

Chapter Nineteen: PJ Hairston and impermissible benefits; Connections between basketball players, felons, and UNC alumni
How long had Hairston – and potentially other UNC basketball players – been using rental vehicles supplied by boosters?
Why did the NCAA choose to not pursue the possibility of vacated wins from UNC’s 2012-13 basketball season, despite strong evidence that eligibility rules had been broken?
Why did the Durham police department drop Hairston’s charges, but apparently not those of his two passengers?
Based on business connections with felon Haydn Thomas, was there a deeper connection between UNC athletes and university alumni Spencer Howard and Lee Gause regarding impermissible benefits?

Chapter Twenty: Jan Boxill and athletic-minded edits to a faculty report
Did Jan Boxill change the wording of a 2012 academic report with the specific intent of trying to keep the NCAA from returning to campus?
Given Boxill’s close ties to UNC athletics for over 20 years, had she used her then-current position of leadership to purposely try and shield the school’s athletic programs from additional scrutiny?

Chapter Twenty-One: Secretary of State football/agent indictments
Had the sports-agent aspect of the scandal been initiated completely from the outside, or had university representatives within the UNC infrastructure known about the ongoing impermissible benefits?

Chapter Twenty-Two: NCAA stays away; Nyang’oro indicted; Hairston dismissed
Even with a prodigious amount of new and incriminating evidence that clearly suggested widespread athletic/academic fraud, why was the scandal at UNC still not a concern to the NCAA as 2013 came to an end?
Did UNC not seek reinstatement for P.J. Hairston in an attempt to specifically avoid further scrutiny from the NCAA – scrutiny which might have spilled over to other players and/or earlier athletic seasons?
Considering the fact that UNC was already on probation following its multiple infractions from several years earlier, why didn’t the impermissible benefits received by McDonald and Hairston trigger immediate repercussions from the NCAA?

Chapter Twenty-Three: National media attention; The cost of a scandal
Would the influx of national attention given to UNC’s scandals finally cause the NCAA to take appropriate action?
Other schools had been punished by the NCAA for much lesser infractions. Why had they not shown public outrage over the preferential treatment that UNC seemed to be receiving?
How much money had UNC taken in – from merchandise sales, applications, and other
sources – as a direct or indirect result from athletic successes that had possibly been built and achieved through fraudulent academic acts?
Why weren’t alumni, outside affiliates, students, and faculty who had donated money to the UNC Foundation not showing public displeasure at the arguably moral misuse of their contributions?

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