CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It was November 2009, and alarm was spreading among the academic counselors charged with bolstering the grades of football players at the University of North Carolina. For years the players and others had been receiving A’s and B’s in nonexistent classes in the African studies department, but the administrator who had set up and run the fake classes had just retired, taking all those easy grades with her.
The counselors convened a meeting of the university’s football coaches, using a PowerPoint presentation to drive home the notion that the classes “had played a large role in keeping underprepared and/or unmotivated players eligible to play,” according to a report released by the university on Wednesday.
“We put them in classes that met degree requirements in which ... they didn’t go to class ... they didn’t have to take notes, have to stay awake ... they didn’t have to meet with professors ... they didn’t have to pay attention or necessarily engage with the material,” a slide in the presentation said. “THESE NO LONGER EXIST!”
Wednesday’s report, prepared by Kenneth L. Wainstein, a former general counsel at the F.B.I. and now a partner at the law firm Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, found that between 1993 and 2011, two employees in the university’s African and Afro-American studies department presided over what was essentially a “shadow curriculum” designed to help struggling students — many of them Tar Heels athletes — stay afloat.
It is the latest in a series of investigations into the scandal, which first came to public attention three years ago. The revelations have cast a decidedly unflattering light on the university, which has long boasted of its ability to maintain high academic standards while running a top-flight sports program. Until now, the university has emphasized that the scandal was purely academic. On Wednesday, it acknowledged for the first time that it was also athletic, with members of sports teams being steered into and benefiting disproportionately from the fraudulent classes.