A day after sending the document to the NCAA, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has made public its 73-page response to the NCAA.
The response addresses the Amended Notice of Allegations released by the NCAA following the Wainstein Report. That report, if you don’t remember, laid out a laundry list of academic improprieties tied to the university’s paper classes, which were maintained for 18 years. While UNC’s response to the allegations concurs with the NCAA’s assessment that things within Chapel Hill’s Afro-American Studies department were bad, the main takeaway is that the university correctly asserts that this is none of the NCAA’s business.
UNC’s fundamental issue with the NCAA here has to do with the institution’s boundaries. Because this was not an instance in which only athletes were assisted—53 percent of the 3,100 UNC students found to be involved in the scandal were not athletes—this is a university problem, rather than just an athletic department one. And as laid out in the section labeled “The University’s Response to Specific Allegations,” UNC’s response to the allegations lobbed by the NCAA amount to, essentially, a response of “This ain’t your jurisdiction, man.”
Issues related to UNC–Chapel Hill’s academic irregularities are the proper subject of review by SACSCOC, its accrediting agency – not the NCAA, its athletic association
The NCAA alleged in April that UNC and three high-ranking employees had committed five Level I violations, a “severe breach in conduct” that can be punished with the NCAA’s heaviest penalties:
- Lack of institutional control by not busting up the AFAM department sooner.
- The university failed to monitor its academic support program for athletes and AFAM department.
- Jan Boxill, a former UNC professor, helped out the women’s basketball team by doing their homework and quizzes.
- Deborah Crowder, an administrator in the Afro-American Studies department, didn’t cooperate with the NCAA’s investigation, therefore violating their ethics code.
- Julius Nyang’oro, the head of the AFAM department, also allegedly violated the NCAA ethics code by not cooperating.
The university pushed back hard against the first allegation, saying that because the issues involved non-athletes and non-athletic department personnel, an assertion of lack of institutional control can’t be specifically tied to the athletic department and thus can’t be brought as a charge by the NCAA. (That honor is up to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, which handles the university’s accreditation.)
Rather, UNC rebukes the NCAA’s charge, saying individuals in the athletic department took advantage of a larger systemic failure rather than creating the failure itself.
The rest of the university’s arguments are more technical. It concedes that in“15 of the 18 alleged instances, Boxill provided extra benefits,” but posits that her actions were not worthy of a Level I violation; rather, UNC argues in its response that Boxill’s over-involvement amounte to Level II and III violations “at most.” It accepts the NCAA’s allegations against Crowder and Nyang’oro; as neither work at Chapel Hill anymore, the university could not compel them to comply.
Boxill, for her part, denied allegations of providing “impermissible academic assistance” to the women’s basketball program in a 54-page letter from her lawyer. The letter, obtained by the News & Observer, states outright, “It did not happen. Not one of the Allegations against Jan Boxill is true.”
This step in an ongoing process which will likely outlive us all will be followed by a response by the NCAA and a meeting between UNC and the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions this fall. The NCAA has 60 days from Aug. 1, the day UNC sent the NOA response, to offer a response to this response. And so spins the wheel.