UNC academic support director reassigned

Posted August 22, 2012 12:12 p.m. EDT
Updated August 22, 2012 2:50 p.m. EDT

— The latest move in the effort by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to redefine the relationship between academics and athletics is the reassignment of Robert Mercer, former director of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes.

Mercer, who had been director since Oct. 2002, has been shifted to a role as special assistant for operations at the James M. Johnston Center for Undergraduate Excellence. He will continue to make a salary of $81,900.

The change was made effective Aug. 15 as outlined in a letter dated Aug. 3 and signed by Associate Dean and Director Harold Woodard. No reason for the move was stated in the letter.

"“Robert has done good work for us. This was one of those difficult decisions,” Woodard said. “What we are looking for is an opportunity to come out of this situation with the best program possible.”

The spokesperson said that the university will begin a national search for a new director of the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes. The search will be chaired by dean of the graduate school, Steve Matson. In the meantime, Woodard will serve as the interim director.

“We have eliminated the dotted-line reporting relationship to athletics and have made it unequivocally part of the College of Arts and Sciences,” a UNC spokesperson said in a statement.

A recently released report of a faculty review suggested that academic advisors for student-athletes were steering players to certain courses within the African and Afro-American Studies Department.

An internal investigation done by UNC revealed that at least 54 courses within that department had irregularities, 43 of which were taught by now-retired department chair Julius Nyang’oro. A WRAL review found at least nine more summer independent study courses with irregular enrollment and a particularly high numbers of athletes.

Last week, UNC announced that former North Carolina Gov. Jim Martin will lead an outside review of the university’s academic issues, particularly in the African and Afro-American Studies Department. Martin will work with an outside consulting firm to determine how far back and how deep rooted the problem of no-show classes, altered grades and other improprieties went.

In July, Bubba Cunningham, director of athletics at UNC, initiated a restructuring of the athletics administrative staff, hiring Senior Associate Athletic Director Vince Ille and Associate Athletic Director Paul Pogge. Cunningham also said that the supervision of compliance for the university’s 28 sports will now be overseen by six people, up from just one in the past.