New troubles for UNC football, as head of African American studies "resigns" over academic "irregularities"

✔✔ The football scandal at UNC in Chapel Hill took an ominous turn yesterday, moving beyond the athletics department into the academic heart of the university. Thus, while we usually restrict ourselves to Duke, this merits a Fact Checker report.

A grim statement from Chancellor Holden Thorp revealed "irregularities" in courses offered by the University's Afro-American Studies Department, including one course taught by the chair himself and another by a sports agent who simultaneously represented UNC athletes.

Previously, some UNC fans had been able to laugh off the scandal, which, after all, in its early stages involved some one's delving into the disposition of parking tickets that football players received. But this revealed a pattern: a link to a car dealer currently in federal prison for money laundering.

One early focus: the talented receiver Greg Little who, in two months time in 2009, got 16 parking violations on a Dodge that had three different license plates. In one three day period, Little got three tickets, same car, different plate. And on the 13th unlucky day of April, he got two tickets, same car, with different plates.

With play for pay lingering in the air, there were also allegations that an assistant coach took cash from an agent; that a former UNC football player who is now an agent had access to current players in the weight room; and that numerous athletes accepted trips, parties and other perks. 14 UNC players missed part of last season, at least seven sitting out the entire season. Still, there was hope that academic integrity had not been compromised, even though all this other shit was going on.

✔✔ Yesterday, Thorp announced the "resignation" of chair Julius Nyang’oro: “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.”

Because of the sensitivity of this move, Thorp was impelled to state he had his cards lined up, with specific support of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees Wade Hargrove and UNC-system President Thomas Ross.

Thorp followed the same formula when he had to can Butch Davis, the head football coach, on July 27: "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.”

There was another casualty: athletic director Dick Baddour, who served 14 years as athletic director, and 44 years in total at UNC.

Nyang’oro was the only black chairman of a department in the College of Arts and Sciences. Moreover, the department has been battered by UNC's budget cuts. For example the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History and the Institute of African American Research both suffered budget cuts of 20 percent this year alone.

Nyang’oro became a focus of the football scandal in July when it was found that former defensive end Michael McAdoo had plagiarized a paper for Nyang’oro’s class, and the plagiarism had not been flagged despite the use of tracking tools on the internet.

Worse, when the issue got to UNC's Honor Court, the court ruled McAdoo had improper help from a tutor -- but overlooked what the internet tool showed. Shaken, Thorp instituted a faculty-led review of the Honor Court that is just beginning.

McAdoo, banned for life from college sports by the NCAA, is suing.

✔ Nyang'oro's was also surrounded by controversy because of his grade to football player Marvin Austin. He was in a 400-level course as a freshman, a move that required consent of the professor. He earned a top grade despite SAT scores that indicated he could not read very well at all. And no one got less than a B minus.

The Raleigh News and Observer later chimed in that Nyang’oro had hired a sports agent to teach a summer class popular with athletes, Foundations in Black Education, without bothering to inform the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences of his background.

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