UNC’s arrogance over academic scandal has tainted the school’s once-great image | Harry Minium

If you grew up rooting for Virginia, North Carolina State or anyone else in the ACC, you may have despised the University of North Carolina.

But go ahead and admit it: Even if you hated the Tar Heels outwardly, deep down inside, you also admired them.

Carolina did things the right way. The Tar Heels played hard, respected opponents and adhered to high academic standards.

Longtime Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith called it “The Carolina Way” in a book he wrote a few years before he passed away.

Of course, we now have much different outlook on the Tar Heels, thanks largely to Raleigh News & Observer reporter Dan Kane, who used the Freedom of Information Act and plain old shoe leather journalism to shatter all of our illusions.

In 2011, the newspaper obtained a transcript of UNC football star Marvin Austin showing a B-plus grade in a senior level African studies class he took before his freshman year began. UNC officials were at a loss to explain how he got into a high-level course before his first football practice.

Reporters and investigators began digging, and the results were appalling.

From 1993 through 2011, about 3,100 UNC students – nearly half of whom were athletes – took African studies classes that proved to be bogus. Classes generally did not meet; homework was not assigned.

Most required little work – a simple term paper at the end of the semester often sufficed.

UNC hired attorney Kenneth Wainstein to investigate, and he found that about 40 percent of those term papers were at least in part plagiarized, yet were accorded an average grade of A-minus.

Many of the term papers were graded by Deborah Crowder, a former academic administrative assistant and a huge Tar Heel fan. She gave A and B grades, Wainstein found, regardless of the quality of the work. Never mind that she was not a faculty member and was not supposed to grade papers.

These “fake” courses helped athletes remain eligible, Wainstein wrote, including members of UNC’s 2005 national championship basketball team.

The News & Observer later reported that five members of that team took a combined 52 fake courses. Rashad McCants, a starter on that team, has said (his claims are disputed by former teammates) that tutors wrote term papers for athletes.

Here’s what an academic counselor told Wainstein about fake classes: Athletes “didn’t go to class. They didn’t have to take notes, have to stay awake. They didn’t have to pay attention or necessarily engage with the material.”

We all know that big-time athletics and academics sometimes don’t mesh, that not every player gifted with the ability to crush a ball carrier or bury a 3-pointer can thrive in the classroom. But universities are obligated to uphold minimum standards that give every eligible athlete a chance to graduate.

Allowing athletes to take fake classes to remain eligible essentially…

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