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Thursday, June 14, 2012
Academic scandal 'not a basketball issue'

By Robbi Pickeral

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina coach Roy Williams reiterated Thursday he does not think the latest revelations about academic fraud in the school’s African-American studies department will affect the basketball program.

Four times in his summer news conference, he said it’s “not a basketball issue.”

“I'm concerned about it because going all the way back to the NCAA stuff, I've said the same thing consistently: It's a very sad time. OK?” Williams said in the media room at the Smith Center. “But I strongly feel that that's not a basketball issue. I'm in charge of the basketball program as much as the chancellor and the athletic director allow me to be. It's not a basketball issue, regardless of what comes out.

“Am I going to be interested? You're darn right. Am I going to be sad if some negative thing comes out? You're darn right. But -- I think the way you phrased it, am I worried about it?  I'm worried about it from a university issue but not from a basketball issue.”

In early May, The News & Observer first reported that football and basketball players represented 39 percent of the enrollment in the 54 courses in the Department of African and Afro-American studies in which an internal school investigation produced evidence of unauthorized grade changes, and little or no instruction by professors.

The school probe was an offshoot of the NCAA’s investigation into academic fraud impermissible benefits on the football team.

Williams said through team spokesman in May that he was not concerned that basketball players made up about 3 percent of the students enrolled in those suspect Af-Am classes, because they were eligible to take those classes, just like any other student, and they did the work assigned to them.

Saturday, The N&O raised new questions about whether Tar Heel athletes -- specifically football players -- were being steered toward those suspect classes. Records show that in a 2011, just days before summer school began, 19 students enrolled in an Af-Am class that the school probe later revealed had little or no instruction. Eighteen of the enrollees were football players, and the other was a former football player.

The basketball team has not been accused of any wrongdoing by the NCAA, or the school. And Williams clearly doesn't think it will be.

Asked how much awarenesss coaches have of class schedules, Williams said Thursday: “I think it varies on the coach. I'm pretty aware of what our guys are doing. It's not a basketball issue, guys.

“It's not a basketball issue. It's a university issue.”

UPDATE: After Williams' news conference, UNC system president Tom Ross told the Board of Governors that the former administrative assistant in the Af-Am department has been in a long-standing relationship with former Tar Heel basketball player Warren Martin, The N&O reported. Ross said the relationship had no bearing on the problems in the department.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.

Follow Robbi Pickeral on Twitter at @bylinerp.