Chapel Hill, N.C. — An internal investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin into academic irregularities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill revealed that any irregularities were concentrated in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and dated to about 1994. Martin found no anomalies outside of that department and no specific link between the scandal and student athletes.
"(There is) no confirmation for speculation that the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes academic counselors colluded with instructors or administrators to offer anomalous course sections for the benefit of student athletes," the report stated.
The report, which covered 18 academic years and included 84 interviews with faculty, staff and others, also found that the improprieties were isolated to former AFAM Department Chair Julius Nyang'Oro and staffer Deborah Crowder.
Neither Nyang'Oro or Crowder were interviewed during the course of the investigation. In the report, there is a footnote for each stating stating, "Governor Martin placed a phone call to Dr. Nyang'oro (Crowder), who did not answer the call or respond to a message requesting an interview."
While multiple former football coaches and players were interviewed, no current players or coaches on either the football or basketball teams were interviewed.
"My opinion was that basketball players would not have been able to tell us anything we didn't know from other sources," Martin said adding that current athletes "have enough to do."
Martin delivered the 74-page report to the UNC Board of Trustees Thursday morning. All board members were present for the meeting.
According to the report, the irregularities in the AFAM department began in 1997 and tapered off in 2005 after the retirement of Crowder. In all, 216 course sections – roughly 40 percent – had "proven or potential anomalies."
Martin found no less than 454 unauthorized grade changes and change-of-grade requests offered under the forged signatures multiple non-tenured professors within the department without their knowledge.
When asked if there was any favoritism shown to student-athletes in the numerous grade changes, the response was "none was apparent." The report indicated that approximately 80 percent of the grade changes identified were temporary grades that were changed to permanent grades.
The investigation showed that six other departments had "curious" things that stood out, but all six had viable explanations such as being taught overseas.
Martin was questioned during Thursday's meeting about potential motives for Nyang'Oro and Crowder's misdeeds to which he responded, "You can try to speculate about motives ...You can have a lot of theories or hypothesis about this." He added that none of the motives were ruled out, but "none were ruled in."
"Whether there is money changing hands, obviously we weren’t able to look at bank accounts," Martin said. "I would tell you that there was no coach that knew anything about this. They did not need to know, that is not their job."
In August, UNC-CH Chancellor Holden Thorp asked Martin to look into allegations of no-show classes, altered grades and other improprieties revealed at the university during an NCAA investigation into the football program that began in the summer of 2010. What began as a look at whether players were getting gifts from agents expanded to include a probe of the academic support system, revealing plagiarism and other improprieties, and resulted in punishment for the football team that extends into 2015.
Further internal investigations at UNC surfaced irregularities in 54 lecture classes taught in the AFAM department, and a WRAL News investigation found that independent study courses in the department had a disproportionate number of athletes enrolled. Martin's report delivered Thursday said that the latest investigation found many new revelations but no inconsistencies with the previous investigations.
Independent investigations by the State Bureau of Investigation as well as the Board of Governors Academic Review Panel are still ongoing.
Thorp, then-Director of Athletics Dick Baddour and the chairman of the Af-Am department, Julius Nyang’oro, have since resigned. Head football coach Butch Davis was fired in August 2011.
Coaches past and present react to report
Davis released a statement Thursday saying, "For the past two years, a few loud voices in this community have clamored that Butch Davis has somehow tarnished the reputation of the University of North Carolina. The Martin Report has confirmed that just the opposite is true."
Roy Williams, the head basketball coach, reiterated his commitment to academics in a statement.
"I have not read the report yet as I am on a recruiting trip," Williams said, "but I understand that it confirmed what the university had previously found regarding classes and independent studies in one academic unit. Governor Martin said it was not the fault of the student-athletes or something put in place by athletics and that is important and good to hear.
"Every one of the young men and their families that I have recruited over 35 years at Kansas and North Carolina know that their education is just as important to me as basketball. That will continue to be the case as long as I coach. It’s what separates college athletics from the next level and it’s what makes teaching and coaching at a university such as UNC so rewarding."
As the former athletic director, Baddour was on the front lines when academic questions started plaguing the athletic department. Baddour said the report reinforced his belief that the academic support-counselors for student athletes acted professionally and ethically.
"I took a deep sigh of relief. I was certainly glad to hear him. I didn't know what he was going to say," Baddour said. "At some point the institution needs to accept what's happened, put things in place to make sure it doesn't happen again and we need to move on."
Martin used the help of the consulting firm Baker Tilly to conduct the review.
Martin, representatives from Baker Tilly and the Board of Trustees also addressed the UNC System Board of Governors later in the day Thursday.
“The reports delivered to the UNC-Chapel Hill Board of Trustees today by former North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin and the Baker Tilly firm mark important milestones in restoring trust in the academic integrity of UNC-Chapel Hill and putting the events of the last months behind the campus," said UNC President Tom Ross in a statement.