Consultant says athletes were not primary recipient of UNC fraud
Despite skepticism that met a former governor's findings last month, athletes weren't the main beneficiaries of academic fraud at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a consultant who looked further into the data said Friday.
An addendum to last month's report of an investigation led by former Gov. Jim Martin said there's no evidence student-athletes gained more than others from dozens of courses in the university's Department of African and Afro-American Studies where instructors did not teach, grades were changed and grade reports were faked over more than a decade.
The addition looked at the proportion of athletes in 172 suspect lecture and independent-study courses between 2001 and 2012, the grades they received and other areas, said Raina Rose Tagle, a partner at the Washington-area academic consulting firm Baker Tilley that assisted Martin's probe and produced Friday's report.
The report was presented to a panel of the state university system's governors looking into the scandal that led to the resignation of Chancellor Holden Thorp and departure of football coach Butch Davis.
"Due to speculation and curiosity, we've delved even deeper into the question of student-athlete participation in these courses," Tagle told the UNC Board of Governors committee. "There was no greater presence of student-athletes in the anomalous courses than in other courses of the department and in other departments" within the university.
Though Martin's investigation looked back as far as 1994 and found academic fraud beginning in 1997, Friday's deeper look into student-athletes only goes back to 2001 and extends through summer 2012. Prior to 2001, the report said, needed "information was available only in hard copy form."
Student-athletes made up about 45 percent of the enrollment in the problem courses, all students had an equal opportunity to enroll in those courses, and only about one out of four of the student-athletes who took an African studies course in that time were enrolled in suspect courses, according to the new analysis. A comparison with another 172 African studies courses cleared of links to the academic scandal found that athletes made up 49 percent of the enrollment.
Friday's report also said:
— Athletes and non-athletes alike in the 172 suspect classes enjoyed high grades. Athletes earned grade-point averages of 3.56 while non-athletes had a combined GPA of 3.63, with both scores representing a solid B grade.
— Athletes did enroll in some African studies courses more heavily than others, but that was in part because they were only able to take classes at times that didn't conflict with practices and games.
— Out of 32 class offerings in which academic misconduct had been identified, seven were filled with current and former athletes but nine others were filled with non-athletes, the report said.
"Our analysis and our review have been exhaustive and there is nothing else that I could even fathom that we could want or need to look at," Tagle said.
Martin's investigation reported that the academic fraud beginning in 1997 was confined to the school's African studies department and were the result of wrongdoing by the former chairman and a department administrator. An earlier probe found irregularities in the department dating from 2007.
Martin's probe was launched after the disclosure of the academic transcript of former UNC-Chapel Hill football star and basketball player Julius Peppers. Peppers, who left the university in 2002 to enter the NFL, earned Bs or better in African studies classes but poor grades in many of his other classes.
State Bureau of Investigation agents are continuing their criminal investigation in consultation with a local prosecutor who wants to know whether the university was defrauded for teaching that wasn't delivered.