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NCAA reopens investigation into academic fraud at North Carolina

When the NCAA finished its initial investigation into academic impropriety at North Carolina two years ago, it appeared the Tar Heels' nationally renowed basketball program would emerge from the scandal penalty-free.

Perhaps that may have been premature.

The NCAA announced Monday it is reopening its investigation into academic irregularities at North Carolina because some people of interest who previously wouldn't speak with investigators have since agreed to cooperate. Enforcement staffers cannot force anyone to speak with them since they do not have subpoena power. 

The decision to reopen the investigation comes only a few weeks after explosive allegations made by Rashad McCants, a member of North Carolina's 2005 national championship team. McCants alleged that his academic advisers at North Carolina steered him to take sham classes in the school's African-American Studies department in order to ensure that he remained eligible. He also accused tutors of writing some of his term papers and said he passed classes in which he only seldom showed up.

Both North Carolina coach Roy Williams and many former Tar Heels players have since refuted McCants' allegations. In a statement released earlier this month, the other members of the 2005 national title team insisted they "attended class and did our own academic work."

"We want to thank our advisers and counselors who supported us, while also maintaining the integrity of the institution," the statement read. "We also want to make it clear that Coach (Roy) Williams and his staff operated with the highest level of ethics and integrity within their respective roles.

"We want to state that our personal academic experiences are not consistent with Rashad's claims. We know that Coach Williams did not have any knowledge of any academic impropriety."

The allegations made by McCants are some of the most damning for North Carolina in the three years since the Raleigh News & Observer and other media outlets began to report about academic fraud at the school. The scandal has centered around sham classes in the African American Studies department and accusations that tutors or academic advisers were writing papers turned in by athletes.

So far North Carolina's basketball program has emerged from the scandal penalty-free. The NCAA sanctioned the Tar Heels football program as a result of improper benefits and academic misconduct involving a tutor in 2012, but the penalties were a bigger blow to the school's reputation than to its ability to compete on the field.

For more North Carolina news visit, Tar Heels Illustrated.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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