Sunday, October 30, 2016

Tarnished Heels -- Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven
Academic fraud; AFAM grade changes; Deborah Crowder

            In May of 2012 UNC released the report from a faculty-led internal investigation into the school’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM).  According to a May 4, 2012, article by investigative reporter Dan Kane of the Raleigh News and Observer, evidence had been found of academic fraud involving more than 50 classes that ranged from no-show professors to unauthorized grade changes.  The report would give many details, but also seemingly leave just as many important questions unanswered. 
            According to Kane’s article, one of the no-show classes was a Swahili course taken by former football player Michael McAdoo.  That same course had earlier been at the center of the NCAA claims that McAdoo had received impermissible tutoring, which then led to the discovery of a paper being heavily plagiarized.  The vast majority of the suspect AFAM classes were found to have been taught by former department chairman Julius Nyang’oro.  Along with the release of the report, the university also said that Nyang’oro would be retiring effective July 1.  According to Nancy Davis, the Associate Vice Chancellor for University Relations, “Professor Nyang’oro offered to retire, and we agreed that was in the best interest of the department, the college and the university.”
            The report attempted to make it clear that there was no evidence that student athletes received more favorable treatment (via the suspect courses) than students who were not athletes.  In fact, this would become a common sentiment to be proclaimed by UNC leadership in the months and years to come, and was the school’s main argument that its athletic teams should not be punished due to the academic fraud: because non-athletes were part of the classes as well.  Possible insight into why non-athletes were in those classes would eventually be revealed, but not for over a year after the release of the May 2012 report.  As such, that information will be discussed in a later chapter.
            A direct line from Kane’s article stated, “The findings were so serious that the university consulted with the district attorney and the SBI about investigating forgery allegations, as some professors said their signatures were forged in documents certifying that they had taught some of the classes in question.  Professors also said they had not authorized grade changes for students that the department submitted to the registrar’s office.”
            An immediate set of questions would arise from the lines in the above paragraph.  The most obvious dealt with the grade changes.  For whom were they changed, and what were the new/old grades?  And what effects, if any, did it have on those students’ overall grade point averages?  If they were athletes, did the changes allow them to keep their eligibility in a particular sport?  More than a year and a half later, the school has still not revealed that information.
* * *
            According to the report, law enforcement officials declined to investigate because they did not think the forgeries rose to the level of criminal activity.  What was apparently not considered, however, was the fact that some of the forgeries dealt with classes that were “on record” with the school, and where students received grades.  They were part of the monetary framework of the university’s financial and bookkeeping structure.  Yet no one taught them – since the professors’ said signatures were forged.  Did anyone receive the pay for having taught those classes, even though no “teaching” took place?
            Jonathan Hartlyn and William L. Andrews were the two senior faculty administrators who conducted the investigation.  In a joint statement they said, “We are deeply disturbed by what we have learned in the course of our review.  Our review has exposed numerous violations of professional trust, affecting the relationship of faculty and students and the relationships among faculty colleagues in this department.  These violations have undermined the educational experience of a number of students, have the potential to generate unfounded doubt and mistrust toward the department and faculty, and could harm the academic reputation of the university.”
            Information that would become extremely important in the future was that the timeframe covered in the report only went back as far as the summer of 2007, and ended with the summer of 2011.  A reason for this was given in a later interview by Chancellor Holden Thorp, who said the course review did not go back before summer 2007 because the university wanted to obtain the most accurate records and recollections available.  Another possible explanation, though obviously never stated by the university, was that the summer of 2007 coincided with the first time the recruits of former football coach Butch Davis were on campus.  Furthermore, Davis was fired in late July of 2011, showing that his tenure at the school essentially mirrored the time period UNC chose to focus its AFAM report.  Many in the social media world would suggest, perhaps rightfully so, that the school was attempting to pin all of its academic troubles on the now-ended Davis regime and his football players
* * *
            Much more valuable insight was provided via the report and the aforementioned article by Dan Kane.  It showed that the AFAM department’s long-time administrator, Deborah Crowder, would have overseen much of the course scheduling and grade recording.  She retired in September 2009 and declined to be interviewed for the internal investigation.  The newspaper reported that she made $36,130 a year before retiring, but she could also not be reached for further comment by the newspaper.  Like the pattern that followed the initial mentioning of Nyang’oro’s name a year earlier, Crowder would also soon become a much more central figure in the academic scandal.
            One of the classes that was deemed a “no-show” course was the 400-level class where Marvin Austin received a B-plus during his first summer on campus.  Kane’s article noted that Nyang’oro had been unable to produce a syllabus for that class, “Bioethics in Afro-American Studies,” or the Swahili class that Michael McAdoo had taken.  That was another red flag, according to the school’s report, because documents provided by other professors teaching similar courses focused on reading and writing in Swahili, not writing papers about Swahili culture in English, as McAdoo had submitted. 
            More problems arose when Nyang’oro told the university investigators that he did not teach the aforementioned Swahili class, yet the plagiarized paper McAdoo submitted listed Nyang’oro’s name as the course professor.  The investigation found it was one of nine classes in which there was no evidence that any professor “actually supervised the course and graded the work, although grade rolls were signed and submitted.”  And as stated earlier, other professors who were listed on grade rolls for those classes said their names were forged on course documents.  McAdoo was one of 59 students taking those classes.  Yet again, an obvious question was left unasked and thus unanswered: who were the other students?  Were they athletes whose eligibility was somehow affected by the fake grades?
            The report also found a “strikingly high” percentage of cases in Nyang’oro’s classes in which temporary grades were converted to permanent ones.  Several other faculty members said they had not authorized grade changes for students.  It was not detailed in the report whether the newer, “permanent” grades were higher than the “temporary” ones, despite this being a seemingly obvious set of data to seek in order to uncover motive.  And once again, the issue of athletic eligibility was completely ignored by the report – despite the clear evidence of Marvin Austin and Michael McAdoo benefitting from taking the classes, McAdoo’s plagiarism withstanding.  As detailed when discussing Austin’s transcript in Chapter Five, a 2.0 grade point average was required to be in good academic standing at the school.  If temporary grades were later changed to permanent ones, and the ensuing result was that an athlete’s GPA was bumped above the 2.0 threshold, then clear intent would be established.  Again, none of that was addressed in the report.  Whether the investigators looked into the matter and then chose to not include it, based on what they possibly discovered, is unknown.
            Indeed, the report did not cast any blame on the athletics department.  However, information obtained by the News and Observer showed the AFAM’s independent study courses were popular with athletes, and that Nyang’oro was often teaching them.  Such courses had drawn suspicion in the past due to the sometimes lax attendance and work policies, and athletic programs at other universities had gotten into trouble based on some independent study courses, according to the N&O.
            In all, nine courses from the summer 2007 through summer 2011 timeframe were found to be aberrant, meaning there was evidence that students completed written work, submitted it to the department and received grades, but there was no evidence that the faculty member listed as instructor of record or any other faculty member actually supervised the course and graded the work.  Those nine courses had a collective total of 59 registered students, according to the report.  Furthermore, an additional 43 courses with a collective total of 599 registered students were either aberrant or were taught irregularly.  The latter meant that the instructor provided an assignment and evidently graded the resultant paper, but engaged in limited or no classroom or other instructional contact with students.
* * *
            The AFAM’s long-time administrator, Deborah Crowder, was earlier mentioned as being the person who would have overseen much of the course scheduling and grade recording within the department.  Crowder began working at the university in 1979, and retired in 2009.  Details would emerge that showed a very close relationship between Crowder and the men’s basketball program.  She had been in a long-standing relationship with former basketball player Warren Martin, who played on the 1982 National Championship team.  At the time the various fraudulent classes were being revealed, Crowder also had a Facebook social media page.  When the report was publicly revealed her Facebook page was still open to public view, and her “friends” list contained a staggering collection of former UNC men’s basketball players – many of whom had played on past National Championship teams. 
Included were:
-- Wayne Ellington (played from 2006-09, and was a member of the 2009 National Championship team)
-- Bobby Frasor (2006-09, and a member of the 2009 National Championship team)
-- Tyler Hansbrough (2005-09, and a member of the 2009 National Championship team)
-- Quentin Thomas (2004-08, and a member of the 2005 National Championship team)
-- Wes Miller (2004-07, and a member of the 2005 National Championship team)
-- Byron Sanders (2003-06, and a member of the 2005 National Championship team)
-- David Noel (2002-06, and a member of the 2005 National Championship team)
-- Rashad McCants (2002-05, and a member of the 2005 National Championship team)
-- (The wife of) Jawad Williams (2001-05, and a member of the 2005 National Championship team)
-- (The wife of) Jackie Manuel (2001-05, and a member of the 2005 National Championship team)
-- Will Johnson (1999-03)
-- Terrence Newby (1997-00)
-- Ademola Okulaja (1995-99)
-- Donald Williams (1992-95, and a member of the 1993 National Championship team)
-- Derrick Phelps (1990-94, and a member of the 1993 National Championship team)
-- Kevin Salvadori (1990-94, and a member of the 1993 National Championship team)
-- J.R. Reid (1986-89)
-- David Popson (1984-87)
            One other name of note stood out amongst Crowder’s “friends” list: Kay Thomas.  Thomas was a long-time secretary of the UNC men’s basketball team.  According to a 2012 interview with the website keepingitheel.com, Thomas worked for the basketball program under Coach Dean Smith until he retired.
Also of significant interest was the emerging revelation that Crowder was very close to Burgess McSwain, a long-time academic adviser to UNC’s men’s basketball team.  A story that originally appeared in the Chapel Hill News in February of 2004 detailed many of McSwain’s accomplishments involving academics and the school’s basketball team.  There was even a quote given by Julius Nyang’oro in the article.  It followed a lead-in that proclaimed that McSwain’s efforts and skills as a teacher had won the respect of numerous UNC faculty members who regularly teach student athletes.  Nyang’oro’s remarks immediately followed, part of which stated, “Burgess has a clear sense of what a teacher needs to do to convey the key concepts that need to be understood.  She is another transmission belt in the teaching process.”  In fact, that specific topic, “faculty members who regularly teach student athletes,” was immediately changed following Nyang’oro’s quotes, leaving him as the only faculty member featured in the section.  Later in the article McSwain was quoted as saying, “I tell people who ask me that it’s not a sham at Carolina.  I can’t say what happens at other schools, but at Carolina, while we may spoon-feed them a little bit, they go in and take their own exams and write their own papers.  We don’t do their work for them.”  Whether she was aware of the fraudulent activities within the AFAM department that benefitted basketball players is unknown.  McSwain died on July 9, 2004, after a long illness.
According to information that would surface later in 2012 via an article from the Charlotte Observer, Crowder had received $100,000 and some Hummel figurines in 2008 from the estate of Burgess McSwain’s father.  The payment was said to have arisen from a “close” friendship Crowder had with Ms. McSwain.  The money and items were reported to be in exchange for taking care of the father’s dogs. 
* * *
            More notable information from the AFAM investigative report surfaced just a few days later via another News and Observer article penned by Dan Kane, which made heavy use of statistics gleaned from the documents.  It revealed that football and basketball players accounted for nearly four of every ten students enrolled in fifty-four classes at the heart of the academic fraud investigation.  The actual number of athletically-associated enrollments might have even been higher, as trainers, volunteers, and other “support” members of the teams were not identified – only those who were official sports participants.  While perhaps shocking to the general public, there were signs beforehand that should have hinted at the news, what with Austin and McAdoo’s earlier transgressions, and then Crowder’s close ties with the basketball program. 
Crowder’s presence brought up another huge red flag once the percentage of basketball enrollees was revealed, and led to a topic that few in the media (and none at UNC or even the NCAA) seemed to want to tackle: As previously mentioned, there were unauthorized grade changes.  For whom were they changed?  Were they for football and/or basketball players?  And if so, how did it affect the GPA’s and eventual eligibility of those players?  Someone at the university – and likely the AFAM department – changed those grades.  A fair line of reasoning to follow up on would be to look at people who had connections and/or a vested interest in the athletic programs.  Deborah Crowder unequivocally fit those parameters, especially with the basketball program.  Yet the grades of past basketball players were never looked into by the university – or if they were, it was never publicly acknowledged by the university.  As explained in an earlier chapter, if players were found to have participated while ineligible, then victories would have to be forfeited.  The UNC men’s basketball team won national titles in the very recent years of 2009 and 2005.  It also won a title in 1993, which just happened to be the year after Julius Nyang’oro took over as the chairman of the AFAM department.   And it won a title in 1982, a team on which Deborah Crowder’s boyfriend, Warren Martin, played.  Yet no questions were asked regarding this massive set of coinciding and suggestive information.
According to the News and Observer’s article, university officials say they found no evidence that the suspect classes were part of a plan between Nyang’oro and the athletics department for eligibility-maintaining purposes.  And once again the same reasoning was given that Hartlyn and Andrews had used in their report: Student athletes were treated no differently in the classes than students who were not athletes.  It should be noted that in the summer of 2011 the university hired a Raleigh public relations firm to help with their handling of the ongoing scandal.  As time would go on, more and more people associated with UNC would repeat some of the same phrases over and over again, emphasizing points that would appear to convey less wrongdoing on the university’s part, and thus hopefully keep the NCAA from returning to the school – such as the “student athletes vs. non-student athletes” technicality.
* * *
Former State Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, at the time an attorney, was quoted as saying, “These kids are putting in enormous amounts of time, and in at least some of the sports that are very physically demanding, they are missing a number of classes because of conflicts, and then if they are a marginal student to begin with, you’ve got to send them to Professor Nyang’oro’s class.  I think the academic counselors realized that and the tutors realized it and frankly the folks up the food chain for the most part recognized it.  But nobody wants to rock the boat because it’s big money.”
Kane’s article went on to further break down the reported enrollments in the suspect classes.  Of the 686 students, 246 of the enrollments, or 36 percent, were football players, and 23 enrollments, or three percent, were basketball players, according to UNC.  Kane went on to point out that football and basketball players accounted for less than one percent of the total undergraduate enrollment – about 120 of the more than 18,500 undergraduate students on campus – yet they accounted for nearly 40 percent of the enrollments in fraudulent classes. 
Some in the social media realm tried to immediately downplay basketball’s involvement, pointing to the relatively low “three percent” statistic (23 enrollments).  That argument was statistically flawed, however.  The short timeframe of the school’s investigative report into AFAM classes was from 2007 to 2011.  During that same time period, there were 26 total scholarship players who participated on the four men’s basketball teams that covered the same timeframe.  There are several counterarguments that could shed a different light on that data:  If each of those 23 basketball AFAM enrollees only took one fraudulent class apiece, then all but three men’s basketball members from 2007 to 2011 would retroactively lose their eligibility (assuming the academic fraud was appropriately acted upon by the NCAA, or even the university itself).  If a group of players took two classes apiece, that would still mean that at least 11 players would retroactively lose their eligibility – 42 percent of the players from 2007 to 2011.  In either scenario, the team would be forced to vacate all of its victories during that timeframe – including the 2009 National Championship.  So once again, it became increasingly apparent why the university was unwilling to dig any deeper into the AFAM fraud.  The basketball team and its past accomplishments were coming close to being placed at the center of the microscope, and those glories were as much a part UNC’s image as any academic reputation had ever been.
* * *
As more dissecting of the university’s investigative report continued, even more questions appeared to be left unanswered.  According to the May 7, 2012, article in the News and Observer, university officials could not say why no one brought the suspect classes to their attention before the previous summer.  Jonathan Hartlyn and William Andrews, the two UNC academic officials who conducted the probe, did not interview students for the report – despite the fact that they must have known all of the students’ names who were in the classes, as they reportedly had open access to all past records.  However, Nancy Davis, a university spokeswoman, said the university’s counsel, Leslie Strohm, and its former faculty athletics representative, Jack Evans, did talk to students.  Inexplicably, those interviews were not reflected in the report.  As noted before, other information that was not reflected in the report was for whom specific grades were altered.  While the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) would prevent the report from naming specific students, it could have very easily indicated whether the grades of athletes were changed – and what effect it had on those athletes’ overall GPA.  But once again, that was not pursued by the report’s investigators or by the university as a whole.
            Tom Ross, the UNC system president and a graduate of UNC’s School of Law, stated a theme that would be oft-repeated in the coming months by those closely associated with the university: It was time to look forward, and not backwards.  He said in a statement that he saw no need to look further into the academic improprieties.  “I believe that this was an isolated situation,” Ross said, “and that the campus has taken appropriate steps to correct problems and put additional safeguards in place.”  On what information he was basing his assumption that it was an isolated situation, however, was certainly unclear.  Hannah Gage, chairman of the UNC System’s Board of Governors and another UNC graduate, said she would not know if the board would be seeking more information until she had talked to others.  As pointed out in Chapter Two, UNC graduates held a significantly higher percentage of the BOG seats than any other university in the 16-institution system.
* * *
The essential (and unanswered) questions:
-- 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?

Tarnished Heels -- Chapter Six

Chapter Six
Football penalties

            The final few months of 2011 were relatively quiet in terms of new information on the scandal.  Julius Nyang’oro had resigned his chairman post in the AFAM department and would eventually retire from the university.  The school had made its appearance before the NCAA regarding the infractions charged in the Notice of Allegations – a meeting attended not only by Chancellor Holden Thorp and Director of Athletics Dick Baddour, but also by John Swofford – who was not only the commissioner of the ACC, but conveniently also a former UNC athletics director, athlete, and a graduate of the school.  Happening behind the scenes, though, was the on-campus look into possible irregularities within the Department of African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM).  Those findings would be revealed at a later date.  The next major news, however, would be the formal sanctions handed down by the NCAA against the school’s football program.
* * *
            An article dated March 12, 2012, from the Raleigh News and Observer hit the highlights of the NCAA’s sanctions.  Many of them had previously been covered in the original Notice of Allegations, with the difference now being that penalties were attached.  The wording of some of the infractions, though, would be especially important regarding future activities by the university and some of its players.  Essentially, the school would later commit similar infractions – but would not be held to the same standards and penalties by the NCAA.  The main difference would seemingly be the sports that were affected.  As has been noted before, the school’s level of defense of its football issues versus basketball issues would eventually be great indeed.
            The football program was cited for allowing some of its players to receive impermissible benefits in the forms of money, travel, and other expenses – often provided by tutor  Jennifer Wiley, who at one time had worked personally for head coach Butch Davis’s family.  It would later be shown through a series of Secretary of State indictments that not only did agents also supply players with money, but that the dollar amounts the NCAA stated in its 2012 sanctions were substantially below the actual transaction levels.
            Another major violation – and one that would appear to drive all of the university’s stonewalling attempts in the future regarding uncovering the truth of its academic improprieties – dealt with the impermissible participation of athletes.  The formal sanctions stated that during the 2008-09 academic year and the summer of 2009, three student athletes engaged in academic fraud.  As a result, one of those athletes competed while ineligible during the 2008 football season, another competed while ineligible during the 2009 and 2010 football seasons, and the third competed while ineligible during the 2008 and 2009 football seasons.  The culminating result was that the football program was forced to vacate 16 victories during that timeframe – as games where ineligible players participated were retroactively forfeited.  This is a well-known mantra of both the NCAA and college sports in general.  And it is also presumably what would eventually lead the school to fight tooth and nail over improprieties involving its basketball program.  Much more on that matter will be discussed in the upcoming chapters, but the implication is clear: If a basketball player were ever deemed to have cheated academically, then the team would have to forfeit any games/seasons in which that player participated – even one involving the winning of a National Championship.
* * *
            Back to the March 2012 football sanctions:  The program lost a handful of scholarships spread out over the forthcoming three seasons, and was also banned from postseason competition in 2012, which included any potential conference championship game or bowl game.  In a decision by the school considered hypocritical by many, however, it chose to award its players with “Division Champion” rings after the 2012 season, despite not being eligible for the championship game due to its past violations.  This decision was apparently justified by the university because the team finished in a three-way tie for first in the Coastal Division.  The school also proclaimed itself “Coast Division Champions” in a variety of advertising mediums, including a prominent billboard in Charlotte.  All of this in spite of the fact that Georgia Tech officially won the division and played in the ACC championship game.
            Another penalty from the NCAA dealt with compliance.  The notes said that “the school must also educate athletes, coaches and relevant school personnel on NCAA rules and regulations.”  This edict would fall on at least a few deaf ears in the future, however, as the summer of 2013 would find even more UNC athletes receiving benefits that were clearly impermissible based on multiple NCAA regulations.  One final notation dealt with how the school would be monitored and treated moving forward in terms of any potential new violations that might occur.  The sanctions stated that the institution is on probation for three years. This would seem to infer that if other infractions were to occur during the three years to follow – in any sport – that stricter penalties would be levied.  Whether that ultimately ends up being the case (stricter penalties being levied) remains to be seen, as other infractions have undoubtedly been committed by the school and its players in the aftermath of those announced March 2012 sanctions.
            Following the announcement of the official violations and penalties, a number of individuals associated with UNC (both past and present) commented on the matter.  Regarding a potential appeal, Chancellor Holden Thorp said, “We decided it wouldn’t make sense to appeal, given how long the appeal would take, given the (lack of) success other schools have had with appeals.”  Former head coach Butch Davis maintained his innocence in the matter by saying through a released statement, “As was stated by the Chancellor this summer, and has been noted in this report, I was not named in any of these allegations.”  Former UNC Athletics Director Dick Baddour took a more grandiose approach with his comments, eliciting the very term that has been brought into question through the university’s actions and events over the past two decades: “Well there’s still a Carolina Way,” Baddour said.  “The way we did this investigation, it was my strong belief that it was the Carolina Way.  We set out four guiding principles when we started.  Number four was that we would be better as a result of this.” 
            In a News and Observer editorial released on that same date of March 12, 2012, staff writer Caulton Tudor commented that the school was given a tough punishment, but that it could have been worse.  He noted that more scholarships could have potentially been lost, and that ultimately only a one-year bowl ban wasn’t too bad.  An important observation he also made was that, “Sixteen wins have been vacated, but that sort of reprimand doesn’t carry much weight.”  That is likely true, given that the football team had never competed for a national championship during the affected timeframe.  But once again, the issue of vacated victories would eventually become the centerpiece of the university’s fierce struggle to keep public information hidden from the media.  Because if the school was ever forced to vacate victories in basketball via the spreading academic scandal, then past national championships definitely would be in jeopardy.  Tudor ended his piece by stating, “Perhaps the most important retribution of all is the damage to UNC’s image and reputation.”
            An editorial by News and Observer staff columnist Tom Sorensen appeared the following day, and like Tudor’s closing remark it also made comments regarding the university’s reputation.  The article began by taking the stance that UNC’s football program – and head coach Davis – deserved the sanctions it received.  Sorenson insinuated that there was little discipline within Davis’s former program, as he reiterated the multiple offenses that were by then well known: ineligible players competing, the acceptance of illegal benefits, a tutor enabling players to engage in academic fraud, and more.  As has been the case throughout the school’s three-plus year ordeal, however, items were pointed out by an observer in an article that would later be contradictory to how things ultimately have unfolded.  Sorensen said the school “got one thing right.  The Tar Heels acknowledged their misdeeds.”  He went on to ask, “How many times has an athlete, celebrity, politician or official been caught cheating and compounded his or her mistake by lying about it?”  The ultimate irony would be that the ongoing investigation into the school’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies would uncover misdeeds, and it would uncover cheating – yet when faced with a different set of potential prospects and penalties, the school would do exactly as Sorensen described: compound the mistake through various forms of obfuscation.
            Sorensen took a final jab at the university’s historical sense of entitlement by saying, “The NCAA did omit one penalty: The Tar Heels forfeit the right to condescend.  While (other schools) were caught cheating, the Tar Heels avoided serious scandal.  As a result, their fans were free to take shots at violators.  And they did.  The lesser among those fans will continue to.  But they have no credibility.”
* * *
The essential (and unanswered) questions:
-- 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 post-season 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?

Tarnished Heels -- Chapter Five

Chapter Five
Marvin Austin’s transcript; Julius Nyang’oro; Carl Carey

            The academic scandal at UNC might eventually be reflected upon as phases that unfolded little by little.  The plagiarism exhibited by Michael McAdoo was essentially phase one, as it showed the lack of institutional oversight with regards to the work being submitted by student athletes.  It also introduced Julius Nyang’oro, the chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Students (AFAM), where he also served as a professor.  It was Nyang’oro who assigned (and presumably graded) McAdoo’s paper.
            Phase two began to unravel on August 21, 2011.  It was on that date that the Raleigh News and Observer ran a front-page story about an academic transcript it had obtained for former UNC star Marvin Austin, who had been near the center of the school’s agent-related NCAA violations.  The details showed anomalies beginning with Austin’s very first classes at the university, and were dissected by noted investigative reporter Dan Kane.
            In a summer 2007 session at UNC, just prior to his first full semester as a freshman, Austin took a 400-level class in AFAM.  This was during the same time span when daily football workouts were being held, yet Austin managed to receive a B-plus in the course.  The instructor was Julius Nyang’oro.  To further muddy the situation, Austin had been allowed to enroll in the course (and apparently excel in it) despite having a score on the written portion of the SAT that was deemed low enough that he needed to take a remedial writing class.  Austin did not take that writing class, however, until the immediately subsequent fall semester – after he had received the B-plus in a 400-level course.
            According to Kane’s article, Julia Nichols, the student services manager for UNC’s Academic Advising Program, said it is unusual for a freshman to begin his or her college education with a 400 level course.  There were exceptions, though, but they were reserved for incoming students who had “demonstrated an aptitude, either through advanced placement classes or other experience,” and who petition the professor to be allowed to take the course.  Based on Austin’s reported SAT scores, the quoted levels of aptitude certainly did not appear to match up well with his personal academic parameters.  Nichols concluded by saying, “As a general, blanketed rule, freshmen are not normally allowed to take 400 or 500 level classes.”
            Another UNC spokesman, Mike McFarland, said the course Austin took did not require a prerequisite and was therefore open to all students.  But he confirmed that students could not just sign up for the course via open registration.  They had to first get permission from the African Studies department, which was led by Nyang’oro at the time.  McFarland also said that a 400 level course also often suggested it had a level of sophistication that would pose a challenge to a newly arrived freshman.  UNC officials could not produce a syllabus outlining the course requirements for the 2007 class.  A description of the class, “Bioethics in Afro-American Studies,” was provided on the unaffiliated website CourseRank.com.  It described it as a course that would “examine the process involved in resolving moral dilemmas pertaining to people of the African Diaspora.”  Yet Austin, a sub-standard student based on SAT scores, not only was placed in a course normally reserved for upperclassmen, but also received a grade of a B-plus.
            Jon Ericson, a retired Drake University provost who started an organization called The Drake Group that advocates reforming college sports, was also quoted in the News and Observer article.  “You don’t start at the senior level seminar and then work your way down to remedial writing,” Ericson said.  He said that Austin’s transcript suggested that Austin was assigned to a class that was intended to provide him a good grade to maintain his eligibility on the football field.  Ericson said he advocates releasing the grades for athletes in high-dollar programs, but not their names.  The grades would help show which departments and classes were serving to protect student athletes’ eligibility, and, hopefully, he said, prompt faculty to speak out against the erosion of academic standards.  That last point would be especially pertinent to UNC’s situation, as throughout the scandal the vast majority of its faculty chose to remain mute on the subject – even while more and more evidence of orchestrated cheating was strongly suggested through data and records.
A 2.0 grade point average (GPA), or a C average, was required at the time to remain in good academic standing at UNC, according to its handbook.  In total, Austin was carrying a 2.21 GPA after more than three semesters and three summer classes.  The transcript showed that Austin received grades of C-minus or lower in seven of 17 classes and labs, including one F and three D’s.  None of those four “lowest” grades were in the AFAM department.  It was just the opposite; Austin had taken three classes within the African Studies department by the end of his second year, earning the grades of the aforementioned B-plus along with two B-minuses – grades that mathematically helped to balance the lower grades he received in numerous non-AFAM courses.
            More revealing data was included in Kane’s article regarding the AFAM department and Nyang’oro in particular.  MyEdu.com was a website that received grading data from UNC.  It reported that a majority of students taking the “Bioethics” class over the previous five years scored an A-minus or better.  It also showed that no students had received less than a B-minus during that same timeframe.  A month earlier Chancellor Holden Thorp had commented on the AFAM department, marking it as an important one for the university.  He also went on to refer to Julius Nyang’oro as “a great colleague.”  Prior to being named chancellor of the university, Thorp had held the position of Dean of the College of Arts and Science – a position that coincidentally oversaw both the AFAM department and its head, Julius Nyang’oro.
            Information held within Nyang’oro’s curriculum vitae indicated that he first worked at the University of North Carolina in 1984 as a visiting assistant professor in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.  He was a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the department from 1985-1987, and in the fall of 1989 was an instructor/coordinator for UNITAS, a multi-cultural living and academic program at UNC.  In 1989 and 1990 he was the executive director of UNC’s Institute for the Comparative Study of African and Afro-America, which was later renamed the Institute for African American Research.  From 1990 to 1992 he was an assistant professor in AFAM, and then from 1992 to 1995 was an associate professor.  In 1995 he was given the title of “present professor” in the AFAM department, as well as adjunct professor in the Department of Political Science.  He was named the chairperson of the AFAM department in 1992, a position he would hold until shortly after the release of not only Austin’s transcript, but also other suspiciously correlating information that soon followed. 
* * *
            Less than a week later another article by Dan Kane and the News and Observer would appear revealing details that would further damage the image of Nyang’oro, his department, and his university superiors.  The August 27, 2011, article showed that during the same time the school’s football program was still dealing with issues that had been uncovered regarding sports agents with connections to both coaches and players, Nyang’oro had hired another agent to actually teach a summer class on the school’s campus.
            The agent was Carl Carey, Jr., whose top client was former UNC football and basketball star Julius Peppers.  Furthermore, at the time of the summer class Carey was representing two other UNC football players who had been selected in the NFL draft held only months earlier.  Even more damning was the fact that while he was teaching the class, he was also trying to retain one of those players – Robert Quinn – whose business manager was questioning Carey’s ability to represent Quinn.  Quinn and his business manager (his girlfriend) were both living in Chapel Hill at the time.  Carey had also previously signed yet another UNC player, Quan Sturdivant, but Sturdivant had later switched to a different agent.
            Julius Nyang’oro hired Carey to teach a course during the first summer session called Foundations of Black Education.  Carey had formerly been an adjunct professor and academic adviser to football players at UNC before eventually leaving the university in 2002 and starting an advising business for athletes.  He would go on to become a sports agent in 2005, with his biggest client being the aforementioned former UNC star Julius Peppers.  Much more on the massive impact that Peppers had on the overall UNC scandal will be revealed in Chapter Nine.
            Karen Gil, UNC’s Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences who oversaw Nyang’oro, approved the hire of Carey – but said she did not know he was a sports agent.  “In hindsight,” she said in an email to the News and Observer, “it would have been better to know.”  She did not make herself available for an interview, nor did she respond to further questions the newspaper had about the hire.  Other UNC officials indicated that Carey was allowed to teach the class because he had the credentials and experience.  He held a PhD in Educational Psychology, and he had also taught the exact same class 11 years prior in the same department under Nyang’oro.
* * *
            Carl Carey told the News and Observer that he knew little about Nyang’oro – despite the fact that he had previously taught under the department chairman in the early 2000’s.  He also claims he told Nyang’oro that he was a sports agent.  Carey said, “I was there because of my love for teaching students.  I was not there for any other purpose but to teach the class.”  The fact that he had entered into a monetary arrangement with Robert Quinn, however, would raise suspicions to those claims.  At the time of the article’s release, Carey was suing Quinn, a first-round pick of the NFL’s St. Louis Rams, in an attempt to recover nearly $300,000.  Carey indicated that the money was comprised of loans and advances he gave Quinn in advance of an expected professional contract.  As mentioned earlier, Quinn was also living in Chapel Hill at the time.  Regarding the depth of the past relationship between Julius Nyang’oro and Carl Carey, Nyang’oro was unable to confirm or refute Carey’s statements, as the head of the AFAM department did not respond to numerous requests for interviews – for this current story, for any of the past ones, or any that would arise in the future. 
            Carole Browne, a Wake Forest University biology professor who also had recently served as a co-chairman for the Coalition on Intercollegiate Athletics, was also interviewed for the article.    The Coalition had previously proposed reforms for college athletics, and Browne said that hiring a sports agent to teach a class was “absolutely an atrocious thing to do.”  She continued by saying, “It’s giving the agent the opportunity to run into students even incidentally, which could generate problems.”  As future information regarding UNC’s athletes and the AFAM department would surface, enrollment data would show that possible contact within the hallways of that department with the school’s premier athletes would be anything but incidental.
The hiring of Carey would be the third direct questionable activity to which Nyang’oro was tied.  Previously he had missed obvious plagiarism in a paper by football player Michael McAdoo.  Next, the transcript of Marvin Austin showed he was allowed to take an upper-level class as an incoming freshman, despite the doubtful signs of Austin’s preparedness for collegiate work.  Unfortunately for Nyang’oro, the AFAM department, and the university as a whole, more was yet to come.
* * *
            On September 1, 2011, less than two weeks after the partial transcript of Marvin Austin showed questionable academic practices, and only a few days following the disclosure that a sports agent was hired to teach at the school, Julius Nyang’oro resigned from his position as chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies.  Chancellor Holden Thorp announced in a statement that the university would also be looking at “possible irregularities with courses that included undergraduate students.”  Despite a bold proclamation in the statement by Thorp that said, “Because academic integrity is paramount, we have every obligation to get to the bottom of these issues,” future deliberate stonewalling measures taken by the school would bring those words into question.
            Even though Nyang’oro would be ceding his position as chairman, the statement indicated that he would continue to teach, according to the September 1st article by the News and Observer.  As a result of leaving the chairman’s post, Nyang’oro would lose $12,000 in salary.  He had previously been making $171,000 a year, overseeing a staff of 22.  Once again, Nyang’oro declined to comment on all matters.  When reached at his office, he referred the reporter to the university administration.
            In a column posted in The Daily Tar Heel several days later, author Will Doran opined that when Nyang’oro resigned his chairman position the previous week, “it was several years too late.”  In a hard-hitting centerpiece from the university’s campus-centric newspaper, Doran pointed out many of the “elephants in the room”; topics that had previously only been skirted around by the mainstream media.  The author noted that Nyang’oro missed the plagiarism by Michael McAdoo – or perhaps ignored it.  He cited Marvin Austin’s suspiciously high grade, and the hiring of Carl Carey.  Also referenced was UNC’s “much-touted academic integrity,” with ironic emphasis given towards those words throughout the remainder of the article. 
            According to the column, university registrar data on the class rating website unc.blinkness.com showed that between 2003 and 2009, Nyang’oro gave out 74 percent A’s, 25 percent B’s, and only 1 percent C’s to a total of 1,126 students.  In the words of the author, those numbers “might not seem out of place in an elementary school classroom, but they should have been scoffed at in the rigorous academic atmosphere” that UNC “claims to value.”  Instead, he noted, many of the former chairman’s department colleagues followed his grading lead, with statistics supplied.  “The consensus from anonymous reviewers on Blinkness was that participation and attendance would be enough to get an A,” the article stated.  “Several others also said a bit of reading might not hurt.”
            The article concluded by touching on Chancellor Thorp’s edict that the university would be looking into areas of the department.  “Let’s not stop with this department,” the article suggested.  “Administrators should investigate all the departments that inflate grades so far that the University’s integrity pops… We’re paying for a stellar education, not a stellar transcript.  Anyone who truly believes in the lofty ideal of academic integrity must desire it at all steps, not just on the football field.”  There was at least one part of the reviewer-comments on Blinkness that would later appear to be off the mark to a degree.  Regarding some AFAM classes and the notion that attendance would be needed in order to get a good grade, data would soon emerge to show that even being present in a classroom wasn’t always necessary for achievement at UNC. 
* * *
The essential (and unanswered) questions:
-- 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?

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tarnished Heels -- Chapter Four

Chapter Four
McAdoo’s plagiarism; Butch Davis fired

            In late May of 2011, with the release of its Notice of Allegations from the NCAA only weeks away, UNC players continued to put themselves in the negative spotlight of the news.  According to an article by The Daily Tar Heel, the NCAA was back on the school’s campus on May 18 to interview football player Quinton Coples.  He had been seen in pictures of a post-NFL draft party he attended in Washington, DC, and the NCAA had questions about trip-related expenses.  Coples had previously shown up throughout Associate Head Coach John Blake’s phone records, and often in close proximity to calls to or from individuals involved in activities that were under scrutiny by the NCAA.  Whether the collegiate association was ever made aware of that phone information, however, is unknown.  Most of that revealing data had been previously exposed via the PackPride.com website.
            According to the Daily Tar Heel article, the school had instituted an internal policy in 2010 that dictated UNC football players to sign out before they left campus to go on trips.  Kevin Best, spokesman of the football program at the time, declined to comment on the specifics of whether or not Coples signed out when he attended the post-NFL draft party in April.  Washington, DC, was also the location of two of Marvin Austin’s trips that drew the scrutiny of the NCAA.  Coples would ultimately avoid any NCAA penalties.  He would go on to be a first round draft pick in 2012, going 16th overall to the New York Jets.  He signed a four-year contract worth $8.8 million on May 17, 2012.
* * *
            On June 21, 2011, UNC received their Notice of Allegations (NOA) from the NCAA.  This was essentially the list of transgressions that the NCAA was saying the university had committed, and the school then had 90 days to respond to those claims before penalties were handed down.  Within the NOA was outlined numerous “potential major violations,” according to articles released by ESPN and the Associated Press.  Those included unethical conduct by a former assistant coach (John Blake) as well as failure to adequately monitor the conduct of former and current players.
            The NOA discussed the various players who had received improper benefits, and also attached dollar values to those benefits.  As mentioned in earlier chapters, the eventual 2013 revelations about Greg Little and Jennifer Wiley (Thompson) proved that the NCAA only had a fraction of those figures correct.  Wiley was also cited in the NOA for refusing to cooperate with the investigation.  Another notable aspect was that the school was also penalized for failing to monitor “social media activity” of the football team in 2010.  Despite these clear explanations of the school’s shortcomings, the lack of social media monitoring would ultimately continue for the university, and would eventually spread to the basketball program in the years to follow.
            Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement, “I deeply regret that Carolina is in this position.  We made mistakes, and we have to face that. …  We will emerge with a stronger athletic program, and we will restore confidence in Carolina football.”  During the timespan that marked the beginning of the scandal and the release of the NOA, one of the supplementary figures – NFL agent Gary Wichard – died in March 2011 from complications due to diabetes and pancreatic cancer.
* * *
            During the first week of July 2011, football player Michael McAdoo filed a lawsuit seeking an injunction to lift his permanent NCAA ban which had been handed down the previous year.  According to a sportsillustrated.cnn.com article, the association’s judicial system found him guilty of infractions serious enough to warrant a permanent ban, but McAdoo and his lawyers disagreed.  The lawsuit claimed that McAdoo was “improperly and unjustly declared ineligible to play intercollegiate athletics by Defendant NCAA.”  His attorney was Noah Huffstetler, who received his undergraduate degree from UNC in 1973 and his law degree from the institution in 1976.
            The previous year’s NCAA investigation had found McAdoo guilty of accepting $110 in improper benefits, and that he also committed three instances of academic fraud related to parts of a paper actually being written by tutor Jennifer Wiley.  Evidence of the academic fraud – which reportedly consisted of Wiley adding citations and composing a works cited page – were not uncovered by the NCAA, but rather by the university.  The school’s Honor Court, however, determined there was not enough evidence to charge McAdoo with one of the three counts and found him not guilty of another, according to the same sportsillustrated.cnn.com article.  According to the lawsuit, none of this was taken into account by the NCAA prior to their ruling.
            According to the university’s website, “The Undergraduate Honor Court is comprised of Undergraduate students from all backgrounds and majors.  Court members represent the values and diversity that makes Carolina special. The Court is charged with reviewing allegations of misconduct to determine if the Honor Code was violated.  If the Court determines a violation has occurred, it will impose a disciplinary sanction consistent with community values and University guidelines.”   At the time, many in the sports media realm felt McAdoo had a fairly strong case for reinstatement.  However, new evidence would surface just days later that would change all of that – and ultimately alter the landscape of UNC’s ongoing scandal as well.
* * *
            When Michael McAdoo’s attorney filed the suit, one important addition was part of the proceedings: the research paper in question was included as evidence.  The Raleigh News and Observer posted the various attached exhibits on its website, and members of the N.C. State website PackPride.com started to look through them.  This wasn’t the website’s first foray into their rival’s scandal; as mentioned in the chapter’s opening paragraph, members of its message board had earlier meticulously dissected the phone records of John Blake, uncovering a number of trends and violations that would later be recognized by sports writers as well as presumably the NCAA.  This time, members descended upon the research paper and quickly made a startling discovery: the vast majority of it was plagiarized, and often lifted word-for-word from various internet sources.  One section in particular came from a book originally published in 1911, and included terms and expressions that had been obsolete (when describing the paper’s topic) for years.
            McAdoo’s suit instantly became more of a challenge, since according to a sportsillustrated.cnn.com article posted on July 8, 2011, the NCAA would likely view a plagiarized paper much more seriously that simply having a tutor reformat the citations.  Other problems on the university’s side were also exposed.  Namely, why didn’t the paper’s original professor discover the plagiarism, considering that it only took some rival fans using Google a few minutes to unearth it?  Furthermore, why was the school’s Honor Court unable to detect it?  And finally, Athletics Director Dick Baddour had also publicly supported McAdoo a few days earlier, saying the paper was the student’s own work.  This was obviously just an assumption by Baddour, or else it was something he was told by other factions within the university and he accepted as fact.
* * *
            A distinction that an organization never wants is having the full attention of a newspaper’s investigative reporter, especially a capable and talented one.  With the discovery of the McAdoo plagiarism, that is exactly what would begin to happen in Chapel Hill.  The Raleigh News and Observer’s Dan Kane began to focus his efforts on the story – not just on McAdoo, but on the academic and athletic issues within the university as a whole.  A graduate of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, New York, Kane had joined the N&O staff in 1997, and became a part of its prestigious investigative team in April 2009.  His journalistic efforts had been recognized with several awards in the past.
In a July 17, 2011, article, Kane reiterated that the professor and the Honor Court missed the plagiarism, as did the involved factions of UNC’s athletics department (academic support personnel, and even Dick Baddour).  Kane also pointed out another party that apparently missed it prior to McAdoo’s case going to trial: the NCAA.  He went on to list another piece of information about the blossoming case that at the time seemed like a simple footnote, but would eventually lead to issues of monumental proportions.  The professor who assigned the paper to McAdoo was Julius Nyang’oro, who was also the chairman of UNC’s Department of African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM).  He was out of the country at the time of Kane’s article and could not be reached for comment.  His name and actions, however, would surface many more times in the future.
            UNC history professor Jay Smith, who will be covered in more detail in a later chapter, said at the time that he was not surprised the school’s Honor Court missed McAdoo’s plagiarism.  He had been arguing for two years that the Honor Court system failed to get at the heart of the misconduct.  Smith said he became a critic when he turned in a student for plagiarizing a paper in 2009.  He said the Honor Court’s prosecutor did not provide the correct evidence at the hearing, overlooking key information that Smith had clearly provided.  The experience convinced Smith that students do not have the time or experience to handle complex misconduct cases. 
            The comment Professor Smith made regarding students being unprepared for that type of authority may be understandable.  But how does that explain the professor missing McAdoo’s offenses?  And the athletics department, and the athletics director?  Smith went on to say in the News and Observer article that when an athletics department relies on the Honor Court to determine facts crucial to a key football player’s eligibility, that puts the university’s academic integrity at great risk.  Student athletes on UNC’s basketball and football teams help the university collect millions of dollars in television rights, ticket sales, and licensing fees, creating pressure to keep athletes eligible.  The athletics department puts “UNC’s credibility on the line without apparently doing the due diligence on the basic facts of the case,” he said, “and I think that’s a very serious problem.”
            To further highlight the point, Smith indicated that earlier in 2011 he had surveyed members of the faculty about the Honor Court.  One surprising find was that many faculty said they do not use the system, and reasons varied.  Many felt that the court was being too lenient on cheaters, and several key responses suggested preferential treatment for student athletes by UNC officials or the Honor Court.  One of the faculty responders wrote, “The evidence of cheating could not have been more obvious, and the excuse given was completely implausible.  Also, this case dealt with a student athlete, and I found the interventions from the athletics department asking that the case not be brought before the honor court unethical.”
            A related effect of the McAdoo case was the attention given to the PackPride.com site, and a somewhat begrudged acceptance by the media of the effectiveness of some of the site’s members.  The site had made other discoveries in the past, but not until the McAdoo plagiarism incident were those findings prominently featured in the mainstream media.  The poster at the heart of the McAdoo case would actually be featured in an article on the respected Poynter website.  He was quoted under a username, as his real name was withheld in the article by request.  One of the main points of the feature was that important news was initially broken on a fan internet site, and then only afterwards did expanding media coverage of the event follow.  Unfortunately for UNC, this trend would repeat itself several times in the future – with each successive story having a bigger and bigger impact.
            Michael McAdoo’s case would eventually be dismissed, and he remained ineligible to play collegiate sports.  Many sports journalists felt those ultimate decisions were in part due to the discovery of the plagiarism.  Paul Sun, the attorney who represented the NCAA in the suit, said that the association “correctly and fairly” applied its rules in the case.  McAdoo would eventually be signed by the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens as an undrafted free agent in August 2011.  He tore his Achilles tendon during the summer of 2012, which forced him to miss the entire NFL season that year.  He was released by the Ravens a year later, and signed with Winnipeg of the Canadian Football League in late 2013.  McAdoo gave an interview with the New York Times that was published in 2013, and which will be covered in more detail in a later chapter.  Part of the topic dealt with academic cheating and irregularities, and also the educational restrictions that schools sometimes placed on athletes.  McAdoo was quoted as saying, “I would still like to get a college degree someday, but not at the University of North Carolina.  They just wasted my time.”
* * *
            On July 27, 2011, less than three weeks after the discovery of McAdoo’s plagiarism, the university fired head football coach Butch Davis.  According to articles released at the time by espn.com, Davis had apparently survived the most dangerous days of the NCAA’s investigation, as he had lead the previous year’s suspension-decimated team to eight wins and a bowl victory.  However, the school’s administration would eventually alter its opinion, saying that the turmoil caused by the investigation was doing too much damage to the university’s reputation.  In a direct quote from Chancellor Holden Thorp, he said he had “lost confidence in (the school’s) ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution.”  He continued by saying that “our academic integrity is paramount, and we must work diligently to protect it.  The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change.” 
With football’s late-summer training camp just over a week away, the team now found itself without a clear figurehead.  After his firing, Davis said “I can honestly say I leave with the full confidence that I have done nothing wrong.  I was the head coach and I realize the responsibility that comes with that role.  But I was not personally involved in, nor aware of, any actions that prompted the NCAA investigation.”
            Holden Thorp and Dick Baddour both spoke at a news conference held on the following day.  Several questions were raised by reporters with regards to the payout that Davis would receive.  Chancellor Thorp indicated that it would cost $2.7 million, at which time a reporter pointed out that if it was determined Davis was fired “with cause” it would potentially cost the school nothing, according to the contract that Davis signed.  Thorp replied, “I’ve reached the conclusion that even though this is a terrible time, that the athletics program will need to pay whatever it is that we need to pay to make the separation happen.”  In a quick follow-up question regarding the wording of the contract, Thorp made clear that the school would not be dismissing Davis “for cause.” 
Roughly ten minutes later and after a number of other questions and topics were posed, attention was once again turned to the topic of Davis’s contract.  A third reporter revived the line of questioning with Thorp:  “Chancellor, you were talking about the reputation of the university.  And given the budget crisis of the university… you’re saying that you’re not going to fire (Davis) for cause.  I have his contract right in front of me.  It says, ‘serious disrespect for the integrity and ethics of the university’.  Given the crisis financially that you’re in, what would motivate you to pay him to go away?”  To which Thorp responded, “As I said earlier, that is what has made this a difficult decision.  Any money that is paid to Coach Davis will be from the athletics department, not general support funds for the university.  As I said, that is the conclusion that we have come to with extensive consultation.  With lots of folks.”  Later dissection by the media of the contract’s wording would indicate that the university could, in fact, have fired Davis “with cause.”  Why they did not is unclear.
An interesting subplot to the timing of Davis’s firing was that Thorp’s decision came the day that a new university Board of Trustees chairman was elected.  According to a sportsillustrated.cnn.com article published on July 28, 2011, former Chairman Bob Winston had long been known as a Davis supporter.  He had served as chairman since 2009, and Winston and UNC administrators had shown their support of Davis numerous times during that time span.  On the day that Wade Hargrove replaced Winston as chairman, however, the tone of the discussions regarding Davis obviously changed while the trustees were meeting in a closed session.  The culminating result was the ultimate firing of Davis.
            An ongoing matter that had been discussed in the media for weeks leading up to the firing had been the personal cell phone records of Davis.  Despite being issued a university-supplied cell phone, Davis had made virtually zero calls on it during his years with the school, instead opting to use his personal cell phone.  After the phone records of John Blake showed a number of NCAA-related violations, the media had long been after the records of Davis, as well.  Even though the phone records in question were for his personal cell, the fact that Davis used it for university business seemingly made them public record.  The matter had been contended by Davis, and was at the time of his firing still in limbo.  At the news conference a reporter asked Thorp how the firing of Davis would affect the pending release of his personal cell phone records which had tentatively been scheduled to happen in the coming weeks.  The question to Thorp was, “Are you still planning on releasing the private cell phone records of Butch Davis?  I know he was in the process of redacting them.”  To which Thorp replied, “That’s up to Coach Davis”.  As it would turn out, once Davis was fired from the university then UNC absolved itself from the equation.  The records would go on to be entangled in legal proceedings for more than a year.
            At the same news conference discussing the firing of Butch Davis, another big announcement was made.  It was revealed that Athletics Director Dick Baddour would be stepping down as soon as a replacement could be found.  Baddour had been part of the Tar Heel “family” for 45 years, and had held the position of athletics director for the past 14.  Prior to that, he had been the senior associate of UNC’s former athletics director, John Swofford.  When Swofford left to become Commissioner of the ACC (a title he still held during UNC’s scandal) in 1997, Baddour took over as athletics director.  With the firing of Butch Davis and the announced retirement/resignation of Dick Baddour, and adding to the previous resignation of John Blake, the number of jobs directly affected by the scandal – which included firings, resignations, retirements, and transfers within the university – now stood at three.  That number would continue to rise.
* * *
            Reactions to the firing of Davis were mixed.  Numerous former players took to the social media airways in support of Davis, while select other individuals who were in some way professionally or financially connected to the school supported Thorp and his decision.  According to an article on wralsportsfan.com, Hannah Gage, a member of the Board of Governors and a UNC graduate, said, “It wasn’t an easy decision, but I believe it’s the right decision for the university.  The Chancellor made it clear today that he’s not willing to compromise the university’s academic integrity or its reputation.” 
            University President Tom Ross, a graduate of UNC’s School of Law, supported Thorp’s decision.  He said, “This has been a difficult decision for the Chancellor, but I am pleased that he made the decision only after receiving and studying all of the facts so that he would both be fair to the individuals involved and look out for the best interests of the University.  He believes deeply in academic integrity and understands that academic integrity and a successful athletics program are both achievable simultaneously.  For this to happen, he has now concluded that a change in the football program is necessary.”  The comments by both Gage and Ross speak to high academic standards and an uncompromising attitude by the school.  Those comments would be viewed under a different and more hypocritical light in the near future, however, as much more serious academic issues would arise – and UNC would ultimately not act with such an uncompromising and fact-seeking attitude when basketball was involved in the allegations.
* * *
            Several weeks following the termination of Butch Davis, one final troubling story related to him (other than the eventual release of his phone records) would see the light of day.  In an online article by local ABC affiliate WTVD on August 17, 2011, it was revealed that a UNC police officer had responded to an on-campus crash involving several of the school’s football players.  On May 29, 2011, Sergeant Shawn Smith was the investigating officer of the accident in question.  Smith had also been the assigned personal officer to coach Butch Davis during home and away football games, according to the news station.
            The article said that football player Herman Davidson crashed a vehicle that also included players Carl Gaskins, Jr., Dion Guy, and Ebele Okakpu as passengers.  The police report indicated that Davidson had alcohol on his breath, but was not impaired.  The initial report said the car was traveling the speed limit at the time of the crash.  Nearly 16 hours later, however, the report was changed to say the car was going 45 mph in a 25 mph zone.  Davidson only received a citation for not having a driver’s license.  He was not issued a speeding ticket, and none of the players were taken into custody.  The crash caused $18,000 in damage to the car Davidson was driving, which belonged to Okakpu’s father.
            UNC said that Smith resigned on July 15, 2011, six weeks after the crash.  The school did not indicate to WTVD if the crash led to his resignation.  Smith denied a cover-up, but when asked about his resignation he told the station’s I-Team it was a “self-inflicted wound” and a “hard lesson learned.”  The former officer claimed on his Twitter page (@Tar_Heel_Smitty) to be “the BIGGEST Tar Heel fan in existence!”  He said, “I let my love for UNC interfere with real life and I paid the price.”  The athletics department told the station that it was aware of the crash, and that the players had been disciplined by then football coach Davis.
* * *
The essential (and unanswered) questions:
-- How did Michael McAdoo’s professor miss the plagiarism?  How did the Honor Court and the school’s athletics 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?