Looking at UNC's classes probe

May, 10, 2012
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North Carolina men's basketball coach Roy Williams said through a spokesperson that he is not concerned that basketball players made up 3 percent of the students enrolled in suspect classes within a department the school investigated for academic fraud, our Robbi Pickeral reports.

Should UNC's football program be worried? Tar Heels football players represented 36 percent of the enrollment in the 54 courses within the Department of African and Afro-American Studies between summer 2007 and summer 2011.

From Dan Kane of the Raleigh News & Observer, which first reported the story on Tuesday:
University officials say they found no evidence that the suspect classes were part of a plan between [Julius] Nyang’oro [the department’s chairman, who was listed as the professor of 45 of the suspect classes] and the athletic department to create classes that student-athletes could pass so they could maintain their eligibility. They said student-athletes were treated no differently in the classes than students who were not athletes.

But the high percentages of student-athletes in the classes suggest to some that academic advisers, tutors and others in the athletic department may have guided them to the classes.

"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," said former state Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr. "I think the academic counselors realized that and the tutors recognized 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."

A key, Pickeral notes, could be that both athletes and non-athletes appear to have been affected, something the NCAA would likely consider. The fact that there is no evidence of athletes receiving preferential treatment has to make football coach Larry Fedora and company sleep better at night, though this is still more uneasy news for a school nearly two months removed from NCAA sanctions that came following a football saga that must have seemed like it would never end.

Matt Fortuna | email

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