UNC uncovers more potential violations in academic scandal

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Friday, August 14, 2015

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina uncovered possible additional NCAA violations in women's basketball and men's soccer while preparing the response to its long-running academic scandal, the school announced Friday.

Its response to the NCAA, due next week, will be delayed. The NCAA will set a date after a review of the new information, school officials said.

During a 20-minute conference call with reporters, athletic director Bubba Cunningham twice referred to the school's ongoing effort to "earn back trust."

"As painful as it is, it's part of the Carolina culture that we want to know what happened, we want to understand it, we want to fix it," he said.

Cunningham said the new information in women's basketball was discovered when officials prepared to release emails from former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein's eight-month investigation. In their review of up to 6 million pages of information, they uncovered more examples of possible improper academic assistance to players.

They also discovered potential recruiting violations over two years in men's soccer that were unrelated to the current NCAA probe.

"I'm very disappointed in the timing. I'm very disappointed in the impact it's going to have on the institution, on the program, and how it delays where we were," Cunningham said. "But I'm proud of the fact that people owned up to the mistakes that happened."

He said those possible violations came to light when the school administered a compliance test to its men's soccer coaches and one of them got a question wrong.

The AD didn't identify the coach and declined to disclose additional details because the investigation is ongoing.

"We came to understand the coaches misunderstood the rules, and we immediately turned that in," Cunningham said.

Under NCAA procedures, if those are determined to be Level I or II violations, the notice of allegations must be amended to include them. The school would then have 90 days from the day it receives the amended notice to respond, Cunningham said.

It is unclear exactly when the new possible violations were discovered. The school says they were reported to the NCAA's committee on infractions on Aug. 10.

Cunningham said he still hopes the investigation will be resolved by spring 2016.

The NCAA's notice of allegations included five charges, outlining a lack of institutional control and four other potential Level I violations, which are described as a "severe breach of conduct."

The NCAA regarded issues related to academic irregularities in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department as potential improper benefits, saying athletes received "special arrangements" such as access to courses and other assistance generally unavailable to nonathletes.

The lack of institutional control focused on the AFAM department and the academic support program for athletes, including the conduct of a women's basketball adviser for providing too much help on assignments. Without getting too specific, Cunningham described the new information in women's basketball as "more of the same."

No coaches were charged by the NCAA, and when asked about the possibility of coaching changes, Cunningham called it "speculative."

"But I will say I have a lot of confidence in our coaching staff," he added.

The academic investigation grew out of a 2010 investigation into the football program; in that case, the committee issued sanctions in March 2012, about nine months after the notice of allegations arrived.

"We are fully cooperating with the NCAA and continue to work with them to bring closure to this long, arduous process," Cunningham said.

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