BRISTOL, Conn. -- Former North Carolina football coaches Butch Davis and Mack Brown both vehemently denied any knowledge or involvement in the academic fraud scandal at the school.
Davis and Brown both spoke on the issue for the first time in an interview Saturday that aired at halftime of ESPN2's Rutgers at Nebraska game. Both Davis and Brown are ESPN analysts.
"Absolutely not [was I aware of any fraudulent activity]," Davis said. "We were completely interested in our players graduating, having great careers and success academically, but to say we had any idea that there were fraudulent independent study classes -- yes, we were aware there were independent classes -- but to say there were fraudulent or that there was anything crooked -- we had no idea."
Brown coached at UNC from 1988 to '97, Davis from 2007 to '10.
"I wasn't aware [of the paper classes]," Brown said. "I never ever heard, felt or saw anything inappropriate academically. Like Butch said, after 30 years as a head coach, I never told an academic counselor where to put a young guy in a class, never told one what major to take. I never met with a dean, never met with someone in the department. I've never gone and talked with a faculty member about a grade because there was perceived pressure.
"I was getting [academic] reports, like Butch would get reports, but it was simply [an update on student-athlete's] grades."
The latest investigation into UNC's academics found that university leaders, faculty members and staff missed or just ignored flags that could have stopped the problem years earlier. More than 3,100 students -- about half of them athletes -- benefited from sham classes and artificially high grades in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies department (AFAM) in Chapel Hill.
A report by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein indicates that the bogus classes began in 1993 and ended in 2011. The university has since overhauled the department and implemented new policies, but must wait to find out whether the damaging new details will lead to more problems with the agency that accredits the school. The NCAA, which has reopened its investigation into academic misconduct, also could have concerns over lack of institutional control.
Both John Bunting, UNC's head coach from 2001 to '06, and Davis cooperated with Wainstein for the report. Wainstein cited five notable exceptions who refused to cooperate with his investigation, and four had ties to the football program, the Raleigh News Observer reported. Two were former coaches Chuck Pagano and Everett Withers, who replaced Davis on an interim basis after Davis was fired.
Brown was not contacted to participate in any of the seven investigations into UNC's academic scandal.
"We were constantly getting feedback from the academic support staff," Davis said. "They met with our coaches on individuals that needed maybe some guidance, encouragement on class attendance. But to deem there was any kind of knowing on our part that there was any fraudulent things is totally incorrect."