Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tarnished Heels -- Chapter Nine

Chapter Nine
The Julius Peppers transcript

            The previous chapter in part covered the limited scope of the university’s look into the AFAM infractions of the past, as it chose to only go back as far as the year 2007.  The school’s poor reasoning was that past records might be unreliable.  It was clearly detailed, though, how information could be accumulated from former players’ transcripts in order to piece together evidence of earlier potential fraudulent classes – if the school had so chosen.  Ironically, the topic of transcripts would be at the center of the next major turning point of the school’s worsening academic scandal.
            On August 10, 2012, the Raleigh News and Observer printed an article titled “UNC reluctant to dig deeper on scandal.”  It laid out in clear words the stalling and lack of cooperation UNC had shown ever since data had surfaced suggesting its storied men’s basketball program might have been complicit in the academic fraud.  Writer Dan Kane noted that in the previous month Chancellor Holden Thorp had promised full cooperation with a special UNC Board of Governors’ panel that would be reviewing the academic fraud, as well as cooperation with others who were trying to learn what went wrong at the university.  “We welcome the involvement of the Board of Governors’ panel, our trustees, our faculty, and others who care about the university,” Thorp said.  However, the reporter noted that Thorp and the school had shown little interest in digging into two separate and very specific matters that had been brought to their attention by the News and Observer.  Those details, Kane said, could have potentially proven that the scandal involving no-show classes went back several years beyond what the university had confirmed.
            In late July of 2012, approximately two weeks before Kane’s August 12 article, the newspaper had given the university the name of a former UNC student who had been in a fall 2005 AFAM class taught by Julius Nyang’oro.  According to the student, the class had never met – and the newspaper offered emails from that person backing up his claim.  Nancy Davis, the university spokeswoman who had handled much of the media-relations dialogue during the summer of 2012, repeatedly said that officials would not investigate unless the former student came to them directly.  Just prior to the newspaper’s article being published, however, she slightly revised the university’s position in an email that said: “The former student’s experience was consistent with the patterns we identified in our review.”  She declined, however, to provide further explanation.  And the school’s review, of course, had only gone back as far as the summer sessions of 2007; the course the student spoke of had occurred a full two years earlier.
            A second matter the newspaper shared with the university was also met with indifference, and that dealt with a “test transcript” that an N&O reporter found on UNC’s website.  In June of 2012 the reporter showed the university officials the “test transcript,” as it was characterized on the school’s website, which was purportedly developed to help students and advisers use a computer program that told them what courses a student still needed to graduate.  The test transcript, which dated back to 2001, had several distinguishing characteristics that were consistent with the issues raised in the recent AFAM academic scandal.  UNC officials said it was a fictitious transcript, but they declined to look at records to verify and be certain that it was not lifted from a real student’s records, either in whole or in part.
            As had already been suspected by many in the social media realm, the News and Observer’s article verbalized an observation that was becoming clearer by the day: “The lack of investigation into these and other matters raises questions about whether the university is seeking information beyond what it has already reported.”  Jay Smith, a history professor at the school, agreed that the university should have been digging into both of the new matters because they could have shed light on how long the academic fraud took place, as well as who was intended to benefit from it.  “My sense of it, and it’s only a sense,” Smith said, “is that they really want to keep this episode to the Butch Davis era, and conveniently also confined to the football team.”  As documented earlier, head football coach Butch Davis was fired after a prolonged NCAA investigation largely revealed impermissible agent benefits, but also minimal instances of academic improprieties.  That particular NCAA investigation did not, however, uncover the mass academic fraud within the AFAM department.
* * *
            One vital distinction about the fall 2005 class was that it showed that questionable courses were being offered well over a year before Butch Davis would ever arrive on UNC’s campus.  The student (who wished for his name to be withheld) provided emails to the News and Observer that showed he enrolled in the class primarily because it was originally listed in the registration records with a Friday afternoon time, which fit his schedule.  The student later discovered, however, that no class time or classroom was given.  He emailed the teacher of record, Julius Nyang’oro, who replied via email, “You need to come see me.”  The former student said that when he met with Nyang’oro he was told there would be no class, and Nyang’oro instead assigned him a research paper.  The student said he worked hard on a 20-page paper and received an A-minus.  The News and Observer noted that as of the article’s press time, UNC officials had still not contacted the student regarding the class.
            As briefly covered earlier, the second item the newspaper brought to light dealt with the “test transcript,” and especially the various peculiar traits it displayed.  The 2001 transcript was for a fictitious student, according to the university, and listed grades and a Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) score.  The SAT score was 870, well below the 1230 average SAT score for UNC students during the late-1990s/early-2000’s timeframe.  The student was also entering his/her senior year of college with a grade point average just over 2.0.  Seemingly even more coincidental was the fact that the student was listed as an African and Afro-American Studies major, the department which was currently at the center of the school’s academic scandal.  The student had completed 12 classes in that department, according to the transcript, with a 2.6 GPA for those courses.  The document also showed that the student was exempt from taking a physical fitness class, a practice that was typically granted to scholarship athletes.
            There were a number of courses on the 2001 test transcript that matched up with those shown to be “no-show” classes in the university’s recent 2012 review of AFAM.  The student received grades of B or better in all of them.  For example, the transcript showed an A for a course known as AFAM seminar, and according to the News and Observer that class had turned up four times as a no-show class in UNC’s review.  The fictional student also took three independent study courses, receiving B’s or better in all of them, and notations indicated he/she was registered for a fourth.  One of the school’s internal reviews in 2012 had cast doubt on the department’s handling of its independent studies, and since the emergence of the scandal a stricter limit had been placed on who could take them.  One final distinguishing factor of the test  transcript was that the student only took a full “five course” load in one fall semester.  The remaining spring and fall semesters only had four classes each, with classes being taken in summer in order for him or her to stay on track.  That is also a scheduling pattern often employed by athletes participating in major collegiate sports.
* * *
            UNC Professor Jay Smith told the News and Observer that even if the transcript was proven to be a mock-up, it was surprising that someone would draw up one that casted the African Studies department in such a poor light.  He also mentioned the uncanny resemblance to the current academic scandal.  “It’s either a real transcript, or it is a startling Freudian slip that reveals the reality of the system,” Smith said.  The most recent university data had shown that athletes made up nearly two-thirds of the enrollments in the 54 no-show classes identified by the school.  In two of those classes, the sole enrollee was a men’s basketball player.
            Despite all of the forewarning given to UNC, and despite Chancellor Holden Thorp’s quote about welcoming the involvement of others, the newspaper’s tips on those two matters (the fall 2005 class and the test transcript) went largely ignored by the university.  Neither the current 2012 UNC registrar Chris Derickson nor the registrar at the time of the transcript’s making, David Lanier, thought it reflected the transcript of an actual student.  Lanier even questioned why a transcript representing an athlete would be drawn up, since they had special academic counselors assigned to them.  Derickson, who became registrar in 2010, said there were many test transcripts pulled together over the years as the university developed the computer program that tracked progress toward a college degree.
            At least one official appeared to show interest in the newly-discovered fraudulent class and the test transcript.  Peter Hans had recently been elected chairman of the UNC Board of Governors.  “I would like to share this with the members of the review panel and ask them to look at it,” he said.  “Maybe there’s a good explanation, but we need to ask those questions.”  As it turned out, the answers would be revealed in the very near future, but not from any proactive fact-seeking steps taken by UNC.
* * *
            The News and Observer article that introduced the test transcript topic to the public was published on Friday, August 10, 2012.  It would only take approximately 48 hours for many of the unanswered pieces to begin falling into place.  In the late afternoon hours of Sunday, August 12, a noted messageboard user on the PackPride.com site indicated that he believed he had connected the “test transcript” on UNC’s website to a real, former student, and that he would be posting definitive news on the site as soon as a final few details could be verified.  From looking at various archived discussion-board threads from that evening of August 12th, the PackPride site began to immediately buzz with anticipation.  Often internet messageboards and chat rooms are filled with wild and inaccurate claims, and much of it can be easily dismissed.  This particular poster, however, was well known by the users of the site.  According to older threads, he had been largely responsible for the meticulous dissection of John Blake’s phone records that had resulted in the uncovering of several questionable trends and connections, and had also posted data and information regarding the AFAM department and its independent study courses, which lead to further questions about the longevity of the academic scandal.  In short, he appeared to be a trusted source, and thus the fans on the site reacted with great anticipation to the upcoming news.
            Within an hour of that initial premonition, a new thread was started on the PackPride.com site with the title stating the owner of the “test transcript” had indeed been identified.  The narrative of the post gave elaborate pieces of data and information, citing years, test scores, dates, and also a bevy of quotes from past news articles – some of which were almost a decade old.  The data all culminated in the announcement of the test transcript being the actual, real transcript of Julius Peppers, a former star athlete for UNC who had played for both the football team and the men’s basketball team.
            The depth of the researched connections in that messageboard post was extremely convincing.  The final blow of confirmation would seemingly come approximately an hour later on that Sunday evening.  According to the archived thread, users on the site began to revisit the UNC webpage where the transcript was housed.  One noticed that the root directory for the transcript could be accessed by simply removing some of the extensions from his internet browser’s address bar.  Once that was done one was taken to the root directory where a number of files were listed.  After clicking on several of those files a discovery was made: the authentic transcript of Peppers, with his full name printed at the top, was there for anyone to see.  The school had apparently housed his transcript in one of the server’s public directories, made a copy of it on another page, and replaced his name with “test transcript.”  They had not, however, taken the time to remove his real transcript from the server.  As a result, it had essentially been accessible to the public for over 10 years.  News about the PackPride.com connections and discovery began to spread throughout the social media world, and by the next morning it was one of the top sports topics being covered on a multitude of reputable media sites. 
* * *
Reporter Dan Kane of the News and Observer submitted a blog post to the newspaper’s website in the early morning hours of Monday, August 13, 2012, with a full article to later follow.  He restated many of the findings from the previous evening’s PackPride.com thread, along with reiterating important information from some of his earlier articles.  The reporter began by saying a 2001 academic transcript published by the newspaper on Friday that UNC officials had insisted was fake could actually be the real thing, and it could also belong to one of the most popular athletes in the university’s history – Julius Peppers.  Specific dates were given with regards to Peppers’ collegiate career, in that he was a star football player from 1999 to 2001, and was a member of the basketball team for two seasons – including one that included an appearance in a Final Four.
If proven authentic, Kane said, the university could be in far deeper trouble with regard to an ongoing academic scandal that was still coming into view.  At issue, he reminded his readers, was whether individuals in the university set up a series of bogus, no-show classes that were predominantly taken by athletes with the possible intent of helping them maintain their eligibility to play sports.  The Peppers’ revelation would also suggest that fraudulent classes for athletes may have been going on much longer than university officials had been willing to look into and confirm. 
According to Kane, a review of the website-linked transcript featuring Peppers’ name at the top alongside the “test transcript” on the site showed a perfect match for 34 of 36 listed classes.  The two that were not exact showed the same class and semester, but differed on the grade.  The Peppers transcript showed an incomplete for one of the classes, “Black Nationalism,” while the test transcript showed the student received a B-plus.  For the second and final anomaly, the Peppers transcript showed he was registered to take an “African American Seminar” class, while the test transcript showed an A grade.  As a reminder of the school’s earlier investigation into the AFAM department, a number of unauthorized grade changes had been made to students’ marks from the year 2007 to 2011.  This could have easily been the case with the two minor grade anomalies on Peppers’ transcript, as well.
Kane would continue to seemingly point out the obvious, but his persistence in explanation was certainly understandable given the obtuse lack of cooperation and concern that his newspaper and other media outlets had recently received from UNC officials.  If the information about the transcript proved true, he wrote, the discovery could cause huge problems for the school.  For one, the newspaper had reported the test transcript because it shared several characteristics with the ongoing major academic fraud scandal at the school – a scandal that UNC officials had been reluctant to determine just how far back it went. 
As a first specific example that the scandal may have had much earlier roots, Kane showed that the “African-American Seminar” class that was shown on the website transcript was known as AFAM 070 in 2001, but as AFAM 396 during the present day.  It had appeared four times as a no-show class in the internal review that had found 54 such classes from 2007 to 2011, leading to serious questions as to whether it was a no-show class in 2001 as well.  As further evidence, the transcript showed grades of B or better on two other classes that had surfaced as suspect classes, and three independent studies in which grades of B or better were given.  The independent studies were also suspect because university officials could not verify that anyone taught or supervised the students who took them.  The upshot of the multitude of questionable classes and the high grades those classes provided Peppers was that without them he likely would not have been eligible to play – either football or basketball.
The Sunday night messageboard post on PackPride.com had also highlighted another confirming detail which Kane made reference to in his later blog entry: a 2003 ESPN feature story on Peppers in which his agent, Carl Carey, was described as having saved Peppers from receiving a failing grade during Peppers’ first semester.  According to the article, Carey convinced a professor to give Peppers a re-test on the final exam in an “Elements of Drama” class in order to receive an overall passing grade.  The transcripts (both “test” and real) showed a D for that class.  The very first lines from that 2003 ESPN article by Tom Friend, in fact, were: “Behind every great college athlete is… a tutor.  And behind every great two-sport college athlete is… a miracle worker.”  It discussed various aspects of Peppers’ time while a student athlete at UNC, including him being thrown out of UNC’s summer orientation program for repeatedly missing curfew and for ordering a pair of Air Jordan shoes with his university stipend money, which was impermissible.  It also mentioned the fact that in the same summer Carl Carey had accepted a job as a UNC academic advisor, he had essentially been assigned to Peppers in order to “straighten him out.”  Next was the episode of the discussion with the drama teacher.  Then an anecdote of how Peppers didn’t want to do his school work, and would sometimes be 12 hours late for study sessions with Carey.  Yet, as the article pointed out, “he’d always stay eligible.”
If the tutor’s name (Carl Carey) sounds familiar, that is because not only was he currently (in 2012) Peppers’ agent, but he was also previously mentioned in Chapter Five of this book.  He was the sports agent who was hired by AFAM Chairman Julius Nyang’oro to teach a 2011 summer class on UNC’s campus – during the ongoing NCAA investigation – and who also had taught in the AFAM department a decade earlier.  Following his initial stint serving as an academic advisor with UNC and also teaching in the AFAM department, he would then leave to become a sports agent.  He would sign Julius Peppers – the athlete whom he helped to get through college – as his premier client in 2002.
On the Monday morning following the Sunday-night PackPride.com messageboard post, university officials could not be reached by the News and Observer for comment.  Kane reminded readers once again that over the previous several weeks UNC officials had repeatedly said that the test transcript was just that, a mock-up put together to test a university computer program that helped students learn what other courses were needed to obtain a degree.  However, those officials refused to check academic records to back up their claims, and as a result were left to deal with the embarrassing – and potentially damning – fallout.
* * *
On August 13, 2012, the USA Today website posted an article consisting of multiple pieces of information gathered from wire reports.  According to the article, UNC had released a statement late on Monday saying it had removed the transcript link and that it couldn’t discuss confidential student information covered by federal privacy laws.  The school did not confirm the authenticity of the partial grade summary, despite having the full name “Julius Frazier Peppers” at the top.  A released quote said, “Student academic records should never be accessible to the public, and the university is investigating reports of what appears to be a former student transcript on the university’s website.”
Other information from the USA Today article recounted some of the previous details from both PackPride.com and the News and Observer’s Dan Kane, while adding other bits of data, as well.  It was pointed out that nine of the ten classes in which Peppers earned a B-plus, B, or B-minus – grades that helped to ensure his eligibility – came in the AFAM department where he was majoring.  Once again it was made clear that Peppers had also played for UNC’s basketball team, under former coaches Bill Guthridge – a long-time assistant to Hall of Fame coach Dean Smith, and then Matt Doherty – a former player of Smith’s.  In June, over a month prior to the discovery of the Peppers transcript, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn had referred questions to the school when asked whether investigators would return to Chapel Hill in the aftermath of the initial AFAM university review.  Osburn did not immediately return an email for comment following the newest developments that spanned much further into the past, the article said.
* * *
In the days following the discovery of the apparent Peppers transcript, some interesting side stories would emerge.  One dealt with News and Observer reporter Dan Kane, and the matter was discussed in a blog article posted on August 14, 2012, by one of the newspaper’s editors, Steve Riley.  In it he mentioned that Kane had attracted a lot of attention due to his numerous investigative articles on UNC’s academic fraud scandal, with one resulting effect being a website that had shown up earlier in the year called dirtydankane.com.  A sports site called The Big Lead had recently raised the question of whether Julius Peppers’ agent had set up the site in order to vent his anger about Kane.  “In a word, yes,” N&O editor Steve Riley wrote.  “But the site set up by Carl Carey Jr. goes back a few months, and it isn’t related to Dan’s work Monday and Tuesday about the UNC transcript bearing Peppers’ name.”  As it would turn out, Carey was apparently upset when Kane had reported in August of 2011 that Carey had been hired by UNC to teach a summer course while the school was under investigation for, among other things, athletes receiving improper benefits from agents.  “Sure, I picked a horrible time to go back and teach at UNC,” Carey had written the News and Observer in an earlier email.  “I was totally unaware of the depth of the issues going on there.”  After the August 2011 article, Carey felt that he had been somehow linked to the agent issues at UNC and resented it, at one point threatening to sue the News and Observer.  That August 2011 article showed up when a person Googled him, Carey said, and he wanted something negative to show up when someone Googled Kane.  Riley closed his article by saying, “I’m Dan’s editor, and I can tell you that I’ve never seen a more dogged and determined reporter.  But I’ve also not seen one any more dedicated to being fair and placing things in their proper context.  He will keep reporting this story, regardless of the web site assembled in his honor.”
The website sportsagentblog.com gave some further details on the matter in an article it posted on August 16, 2012.  It stated that Jason McIntyre of “The Big Lead” surmised that Carey was the owner of the dirtydankane website based on a whois.com search which reveals who registered virtually any particular website.  It is possible to make a website’s registration anonymous, but that precaution was not taken, however.  The whois.com search revealed that a Cary Carey of Houston, Texas, registered the dirtydankane website in question.  This was information that the News and Observer’s Steve Riley had alluded to in his article.  However, when sources from sportsagentblog.com reached out to Carey, he gave the response that “I am not the owner of a website designed to smear anyone.”  Apparently he was unaware of public internet documentation of website registrations, such as the whois.com site.
* * *
The Raleigh News and Observer entered the fray once again on August 17, 2012, exactly one week after its article about the “test transcript” that UNC officials had claimed was fictional, and which the school had refused to look into further.  More research had been conducted by the newspaper, and as the article’s title referenced, “Transcript shows low hurdles for UNC athletes to stay eligible.”  Details included the breakdowns of Peppers’ grade point average for each semester, and possible scenarios for how he had managed to continue playing sports.
The article began by noting how numerous media members (and also people in the social media realm) had wondered how an athlete with such poor grades as shown on the transcript could have remained eligible to play both football and basketball at a presumably premier academic institution as UNC.  The transcript showed that Peppers received D’s or F’s in eleven classes.  He ended his first full semester at the school with a 1.08 GPA, it never went above a 1.95 during his entire collegiate-playing career, and yet he was never academically ineligible.  The article’s author, Andrew Carter, pointed out that Peppers often came close to ineligibility, though.  Peppers ended his spring 2001 semester with a 1.82 GPA.  According to the school’s minimum standards for athletes at the time, he would have needed a GPA of at least a 1.9 to play football in the fall of 2001.  His named transcript did not list any grades after the 2001 spring semester, but the one identified as a “test transcript” offered clues about how he kept his eligibility.  The N&O would also remind its readers that the test transcript was an almost exact match for the one with Peppers’ name.
According to the transcript, when he was in the most jeopardy to lose his eligibility Peppers received two very specific and notable grades. The first was a B-plus in the spring of 2001 in a course entitled “Black Nationalism.”  The second was in the summer of 2001 in an African and Afro-American Studies seminar, in which he received an A.  Those two grades – both in the AFAM department that was embroiled in an academic scandal centered around fraudulent no-show classes and forged grade changes – were ultimately enough to improve his GPA as to be eligible to play sports in the fall of 2001, his final season before entering the NFL.
The News and Observer article interviewed one of the very few faculty members willing to speak out against the academic embarrassment, UNC history professor Jay Smith.  He had studied Peppers’ transcript with interest, and said, “Assuming it’s a legitimate transcript – and I guess everything suggests that it is – I was struck by the very poor showing in the student’s very first semester.  And (by) the pattern that quickly developed of the student doing a kind of high-wire act – barely staying eligible, or even falling under the eligibility bar in the course of the academic year and then getting back over the bar with courses over the summer.”  And the courses that always allowed Peppers to retain his eligibility?  They were classes in the fraudulent AFAM department.
Indeed, the data mined by the N&O showed that Peppers carried a 2.16 GPA in AFAM courses.  Not a stellar academic performance by any means, but suitable enough to balance out his non-AFAM courses – in which he received a cumulative 1.41 GPA.  Other stark contrasts were shown between his work in the more standard fall and spring semesters when compared to his work in summer classes.  He produced a 1.65 GPA in his first six fall and spring semesters, but a 2.93 GPA in the four summer classes for which letter grades were listed on the transcript.  At the time of the article, UNC officials were still not confirming that the transcript was Peppers’.  They had said, however, that Peppers was academically eligible to compete during his career at the school.
The article reported that to ultimately remain eligible during Peppers’ years at UNC the university required athletes to have at least a 1.5 GPA entering their third semester, a 1.75 entering their fifth semester, and a 1.9 entering their seventh semester.  It wasn’t until athletes entered their ninth semester – their fifth year of eligibility – that they would have needed a 2.0 GPA to be academically eligible.  “In retrospect,” Professor Jay Smith said, “it’s kind of amazing that the floor was ever that low.”  Coincidentally or not, Peppers managed to stay just above the eligibility threshold entering each of those semester benchmarks, and it was always thanks to high grades received in AFAM courses.  He left for the NFL prior to his ninth semester.
In the fall of 2006 UNC adopted stricter academic eligibility requirements.  Jay Smith praised the school’s improved standards but questioned what it really meant.  “I guess that’s one thing that has changed for the positive in the last few years,” he said.  “Although, I doubt that the stricter GPA guidelines have done much to change the nature of the overall game that is played.  The game is still, it seems to me at most big-time sports universities, to find course schedules that will keep players eligible.”
* * *
There was also a legal angle to consider regarding the possible inadvertent publishing of Peppers’ transcript by the school.  According to an article on wral.com, the simple fact that the document appeared online could have been a violation of a federal law.  At the time of the article UNC had still not confirmed or denied that it was in fact authentic, but were reportedly looking into the validity of it and were seeking answers to how it may have ended up on the university’s website.  According to a U.S. Department of Education official, the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act “protects the education record of the student who is or has been in attendance at the school.”  The official told wral.com that it made no difference whether the student was current or former.  “Under FERPA, a consent for disclosure of education records must be signed and dated and must specify the records that may be disclosed; state the purpose of the disclosure; and identify the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure may be made,” the official said in a statement.  “If a student contacts this office alleging that his or her rights under FERPA had been violated, we may open an investigation.”  In extreme cases, an institution that violated FERPA could even lose federal funding.
Professor Jay Smith spoke on a morning radio show two days after the transcript’s discovery.  “I have come to the conclusion the problem is a systemic one,” he told hosts on 99.9 The Fan ESPN Radio.  “It is a systemic problem across the (UNC) campus.”  Board of Trustees Chairman Wade Hargrove also spoke up on the matter, though he was noncommittal.  “The university is continuing this investigation.  (It) is not over, and when there is factual information to disclose it will be discussed.”  UNC did not answer any additional questions for wral.com, and multiple calls to Peppers and his agent had gone unanswered.  A U.S. Department of Education official said that a student would have to complain about a potential FERPA violation before any potential action could be taken against an institution.  Once Peppers finally spoke up, however, it quickly became apparent that restitution from the university would not be sought by its former star athlete.
* * *
 On Saturday, August 18, 2012, numerous articles began to be published indicating that Julius Peppers had released a statement to the Chicago Tribune, the hometown paper of the NFL’s Chicago Bears, for whom Peppers played at the time.  He confirmed the transcript was his, and displayed disappointment that it had been inadvertently published.  He did not, however, indicate that he would be taking any sort of legal action against UNC.  Instead, the statement was largely void of negativity towards the university; he even thanked the school’s academic and athletic staff for their help and guidance during his time at UNC.  He said he was currently “thinking of ways that I can use my experiences and resources” to help support students early in their college career.  The meaning behind that quote would become apparent two days later.
According to an August 20, 2012, article on ESPN.com, the school announced that Peppers had earlier that day donated $250,000 to UNC’s “Light on the Hill Society” scholarship fund, which supported African-American students.  Peppers had previously donated $100,000 to the scholarship fund in 2009.  “This gift is indicative of the kind of man Julius Peppers has become,” Richard Williams, chair of the Light on the Hill Society board, said in a prepared statement.  “I am very proud that he credits his experiences at Chapel Hill for helping to shape him.”
* * *
Once again questions would arise from the media regarding just how long the academic improprieties had been occurring at UNC.  Chancellor Holden Thorp had repeatedly defended the school’s decision to only look as far back as 2007 in its search for fraudulent classes.  His reasoning had already been proven to be tenuous due to the abundance of available student data at the university’s disposal.  With the virtual assurance of past indiscretions dating back at least to 1999 (by way of the information held within Peppers’ transcript), the poor choice of the school’s limited 2007 timeframe was further exposed.  Based on an article published by The Daily Tar Heel on August 21, 2012, Thorp also appeared to be showing some signs of agitation on the matter.  When questioned about how long the academic deceit had been occurring at the university, Thorp replied, “We never said it just started in 2007,” offering yet another deflection away from the inadequate in-house investigation the school had sanctioned earlier in 2012.
            In late August UNC would finally reveal how Peppers’ academic transcript ended up on the university website.  Based on an article by triangle.news14.com, Thorp told a five-member UNC Board of Governors panel that two staffers had made a mistake more than a decade earlier that resulted in the transcript’s display.  “Neither staff member protected student confidential information to the degree that they should have,” Thorp said.  “The first staff member has been disciplined; the second no longer works at the university.  These incidents happened a long time ago and the university has long since changed the protocol for how test student records are set up and maintained.”  Thorp indicated that the staff members had been updating the university’s old student information system at the time.
            In that same article it was revealed that beginning with the 2013 school year, the Department of African and Afro-American Studies would have a new name.  It would be called the African, African American and Diaspora (AAAD).  The change had been approved by the administrative board, and the department reportedly felt the new name better reflected what they taught.  Chancellor Thorp said he felt that new safeguards could turn the university into a model for other schools struggling with similar issues.  He also took the opportunity to repeat one of the school’s key PR themes of “looking forward” when he said, “We will fix this and it will never happen again.”  The damage of the release of Peppers’ transcript – and all its deep insinuations – had begun to spread, however.  Multiple factions within the media were finally coming to the full realization that numerous basketball players of UNC’s various national title teams had almost certainly profited from the dishonest academic system that was being exposed.
* * *
The essential (and unanswered) questions:
-- 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 twenty 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?