Former academic advisor making film about UNC scandal

Posted December 7, 2015 6:00 p.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2015 6:38 p.m. EST

— The athletic scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has been headline news for years. But a former academic advisor says the media and the university have gotten the story wrong, and he is making a film about it.

Bradley Bethel calls his film "Unverified," a personal, human story. He became an academic advisor to athletes at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2011, shortly after the scandal broke, and left earlier this year. He says he’s taking on the media, investigators and the university on behalf of his colleagues.

“I saw unverified claims being propagated in the media,” he said. “My narrative is that it wasn't an athletics-driven scandal.”

He argues the media misrepresented the scandal where UNC used no-show paper classes to help keep athletes eligible. Bethel says he's most driven to defend fellow academic counselors fired over accusations they knowingly took part in the fraud.

“I hope to show that good people were unfairly blamed,” he said.

For the first time, the documentary includes interviews with counselors Jamie Lee and Beth Bridger. Lee says she was “just trying to help students get through college.”

Bethel says he doesn’t deny there was a scandal but says UNC admitted too many student athletes who needed remedial help.

“Being academically under prepared for UNC is not the same as being illiterate,” he said.

Bethel says he believes easy paper classes graded and guided by administrative assistant Debbie Crowder lacked oversight. He says he’s not a UNC apologist.

“When you see the film, you'll see I am critical of UNC,” he said, adding that he believes the university skipped over administrators and blamed counselors. “This is a complicated story that requires a lot of nuance, and I don't think there are just good guys and bad guys.”

“This has never been about protecting banners for me,” Bethel added. “This is about the good people I think who were misrepresented and scapegoated.”

After raising about $175,000 for the film, Bethel is using Kickstarter to get another $16,000 for post production and promotional costs. "Unverified" is set to premier at the Varsity Theater in Chapel Hill on Jan. 8.