NCAA rules not broken, UNC says

Updated: August 31, 2012, 5:11 PM ET
By Robbi Pickeral | ESPN.com

The NCAA has told University of North Carolina officials that the university apparently did not break NCAA rules in the scandal surrounding the school's Afro and African-American Studies Department, according to a statement released by the school Friday.

North Carolina, which first notified the NCAA that it had identified potential academic issues involving student-athletes in AFAM courses a year ago, updated the NCAA enforcement staff on Aug. 23 about the situation.

"The NCAA staff reaffirmed to university officials that no NCAA rules appeared to have been broken," the school said in its statement.

In May, UNC made public an internal probe that found 54 AFAM classes were either "aberrant" or "irregularly" taught from summer 2007 to summer 2011. That included unauthorized grade changes, forged faculty signatures on grade rolls, and limited or no class time.

UNC has said that no student received a grade without submitting written work. But more than 50 percent of the students in those suspect classes were athletes. As first reported by The News & Observer of Raleigh, one class last summer had an enrollment of 19 -- 18 football players and one former football player.

Late last month, a faculty committee looking into the scandal issued a new report stating that academic counselors assigned to the athletes may have steered them into those classes. Then former two-sport athlete Julius Peppers' transcript was discovered on UNC's website, showing that numerous classes in the AFAM department helped Peppers stay eligible before he left UNC early for the NFL after the 2001 season. Peppers was an AFAM Studies major.

His transcript raised more questions about how far back the department's problems were and helped spawn a new independent probe, led by former North Carolina Gov. James G. Martin. That investigation is reaching back before 2007.

UNC reiterated Friday that it shared the results of its original internal probe with the NCAA on Aug. 24, 2011 -- well before the NCAA sanctioned the football program last March for improper benefits and academic misconduct involving a tutor.

An enforcement staff member made "several" trips to Chapel Hill in the fall of 2011, according to the statement, and found "no violations of current NCAA rules or student-athlete eligibility issues related to courses in African and Afro-American Studies."

The university also supplied the NCAA with a copy of the internal review it finished in May.

"University officials will continue to keep the NCAA informed as developments warrant," the statement said.

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