Saturday, October 29, 2016

Tarnished Heels -- Chapter Three

Chapter 3
Parking tickets; tutor Jennifer Wiley

            Evidence of more wrongdoings had continued to surface in the late summer of 2010, and as a result local North Carolina media entities approached UNC with numerous public records requests.  Instead of being forthright and releasing much of the information, however, the school chose to stonewall behind a team of lawyers and delay the release of key records and documents – a practice that actually continues to stretch into 2014.  One set of records was finally released in June of 2011 after the State Court of Appeals denied the school’s request to delay the release pending an appeal.  According to a June 16, 2011, article from the Raleigh News and Observer, this was brought about following a lawsuit by a consortium of media outlets that had requested – and been denied by UNC – those numerous public records.
            A key release dealt with on-campus parking tickets received by fewer than twelve football players.  The players had been specifically named/requested by the media consortium due to the fact that they were some of the key pieces involved in the ongoing NCAA investigation.  According to that same News and Observer article, those players tallied 395 parking violations from early 2007 through August 2010.  The latter month and year was when several of the news entities had made their documents request, meaning the school had fought their release for almost a full year.  This was a stark contrast to the comments made in the previous chapter by people such as Dick Baddour, Erskine Bowles, and Bob Winston who pledged to do whatever it took to get to the bottom of the school’s scandalous issues.
            The 395 tickets led to fines totaling $13,125.  Some of the specific details behind those various numbers revealed much more, however, and would eventually lead to the discovery of deeper problems.  According to the News and Observer, Greg Little, a former wide receiver who was ruled permanently ineligible the previous season due to NCAA agent violations, was responsible for 93 of the tickets.  Even more shocking was the fact that Little was ticketed in five different vehicles, and that those vehicles had nine different license plates on them, apparently in part from the use of dealer tags.  According to a article, by law dealers cannot issue temporary tags to the same vehicle for consecutive months.  However, the parking records showed that one of Little’s vehicles bore temporary tags for the months of March and April of 2008.  Both of those 30-day tags traced back to a company in Durham named 919 Imports.  That auto dealer had closed by the time the parking records were finally released, and the business owner, Shawn E. Brown, was serving a federal sentence for money laundering.  Interestingly, a somewhat related series of events would unfold two years later during the summer of 2013 when UNC star basketball player PJ Hairston would be connected to vehicles supplied by another convicted felon from Durham.  Those events will be covered in full detail in a later chapter.
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            It would eventually be revealed that Jennifer Wiley, the UNC tutor noted in the previous chapter, paid $1,789 in August 2010 for some of Greg Little’s aforementioned parking tickets.  As more information about Wiley was uncovered, her role – and that of the academic support system at UNC – would become more prominent.  According to a timeline provided by, Wiley began her employment with UNC’s academic support center in August of 2007 during her junior year as a student at the university.  During the subsequent three years she provided a number of impermissible educational benefits to athletes, mainly in the manner of making substantive changes to papers, and also composing entire sections in some cases.  There was also the payment of Little’s parking tickets, and at the time that summarized the basic extent of her impermissible assistance.  Despite these impermissible transgressions that were still unknown at the time, Wiley was seen fit to receive an institutional award for tutoring excellence by the university upon her graduation in May of 2009.  The fall of 2013 would shed much more light on her true role, however, and would later paint many of the comments made by those who had defended her in a very hypocritical light.
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            Beginning in October of 2013, the NC Secretary of State would begin issuing indictments based on its investigation into sports agents.  Jennifer Wiley (now with the married last name of Thompson) was the first to be indicted, and the information that was revealed showed that much of her illegal involvement was never uncovered during the initial NCAA investigation of the scandal.  Secretary of State documents showed that she received thousands of dollars in cash (through the mail) from sports agents, and would then pass that money on to football (and one-time basketball) player Greg Little.  Again, the documents associated with the indictment would counter many of the supporting claims made by her defenders several years earlier.  Those indictments will be covered in greater detail in a later chapter.
            In March of 2012, Joseph B. Cheshire V, a Raleigh lawyer who was representing Wiley at the time, gave an interview with the Raleigh News and Observer in support of his client.  In the coinciding news article Cheshire indicated that Wiley’s father had sought his counsel shortly after her role in the scandal became public back in 2010.  Cheshire, a well-known defense lawyer, said he agreed to advise Wiley at no charge because he believed in her and was sickened by “the extent people would go to destroy her life for their own sakes.”  As a predictable side note, Cheshire is a graduate of the University of North Carolina. 
            Up to that point in time Wiley had never talked with NCAA investigators, and it was later revealed that she stonewalled those from the Secretary of State as well.  Cheshire stated that she was a “deeply religious” and “big-hearted” young woman, but conceded that the academic assistance that she had given UNC’s players was “sometimes out of bounds without even knowing she was, but yes, occasionally just out of bounds.”  He went on to say that she broke “convoluted and arcane” NCAA rules, apparently referring to assistance on papers, but her efforts to help were no different from what “thousands of friends, family, fraternity members, suite mates, girl or boyfriend students” routinely do for students not affiliated with an athletics program.  Cheshire said Wiley’s motivation was simple:  She wanted to help people who needed help.
            The obvious question that is raised regarding Wiley (Thompson), especially with the fall 2013 Secretary of State indictments, deals with the illegal acts of accepting cash payments via the US Postal Service across state lines, and then funneling that money to collegiate athletes.  Greg Little has since admitted to receiving more than $20,000 during his time at UNC.  None of that was mentioned by her lawyer in the March 2012 article; he simply decried her as a victim who only wished to help athletes with their school work.  So it begs the question: did Cheshire know that Wiley had accepted cash payments and was giving it to players?  If so, did he deliberately omit that information when verbally defending his client?  Or did Wiley simply lie to her lawyer, in essence continuing the lack of clarity and communication that she had shown the NCAA – and would later show the Secretary of State?
            Other troubling facets of the Wiley situation were connected to her post-UNC employment.  According to the same News and Observer article that is quoted in the previous paragraphs, rumors circulated in the summer of 2009 that she had become “too friendly” with student athletes, and her employment contract was not renewed as a result.  According to an ESPN timeline, this decision was reached in August 2009 by the director of the Academic Support Center and the Assistant AD for Certification.  However, she was soon thereafter hired directly by head football coach Butch Davis to help tutor his son, a high school student at the time.  Wiley would continue to provide impermissible academic assistance to UNC players even after she was no longer employed by the university, and despite being sent a letter by the university that it was not okay to continue providing tutoring services to student athletes.  She also continued to provide impermissible monetary gifts to players – again, during a timeframe that seemingly overlapped with her personal employment with head football coach Butch Davis.
            Wiley, an Education major while at UNC, went on to teach for a short time in elementary schools in both Durham and Raleigh.  Her employment stints were brief, however, due in part to her reputation and past involvement in the scandal.  According to her lawyer, in September 2011 she resigned from Jeffreys Grove Elementary School in Raleigh after a little more than a month on the job.  Cheshire said she quit because parents complained she was “the UNC tutor.”
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The essential (and unanswered) questions:
-- 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?