UNC prof linked to football investigation resigns position

Posted September 1, 2011 4:18 p.m. EDT
Updated September 15, 2011 2:34 p.m. EDT

— Professor Julius Nyang'oro, chairman of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies at the University of North Carolina, resigned that position Thursday. It was an assignment for Nyang'oro's class that brought to light apparent plagiarism by Michael McAdoo, a former member of the UNC football team.

McAdoo, who was ruled permanently ineligible in 2010 by the NCAA in the course of an investigation of players receiving impermissible benefits, filed suit in July to force the university to let him back on the field in 2011. McAdoo's lawyer, Noah Huffstetler, argued that the NCAA violated its own procedures in ruling McAdoo ineligible. He further argued that the NCAA's decision was based on information that was factually wrong and never gave McAdoo a fair chance.

In support of his case, Huffstetler provided to the court a paper written by McAdoo for Nyang'oro's class which, when compared against common plagiarism tracking tools on the internet, showed large portions of the text that appeared to have been copied from other sources.

The student-run UNC Honor Court found that McAdoo had improper help from a tutor with the works cited but overlooked any irregularities in the body of the paper.

After a hearing in McAdoo's case, Chancellor Holden Thorp asked for a faculty-led review of the Honor Court.

In a statement Thursday, he said, "Because academic integrity is paramount, we have every obligation to get to the bottom of these issues. This process has been difficult, and we’ve been through a lot this past year, but the only right thing to do is to pursue the facts and fix the problems.”

Thorp cited the same academic integrity in firing head football coach Butch Davis on July 27 after more than a year of NCAA scrutiny of the program. "I have lost confidence in our ability to come through this without harming the way people think of this institution. Our academic integrity is paramount, and we must work diligently to protect it. The only way to move forward and put this behind us is to make a change,” Thorp said that day.

In Thursday's announcement, Thorp said UNC officials have been looking at “possible irregularities with courses that included undergraduate students" in Nyang’oro’s department.

Nyang'oro's students included one of McAdoo's teammates, Marvin Austin. According to a transcript published by The News & Observer. Austin earned a B+ in the 400-level class in African-American studies as a freshman, despite SAT scores that indicated he was a poor reader. Nyang'oro would have had to give his consent to allow Austin into the class.

Thorp said the university would continue "to review the facts to determine whether there have been any violations of university policy and to determine what additional actions are necessary."

Professor Evelyne Huber will serve as interim chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies. Nyang'oro will continue in a teaching role.