UNC class almost exclusively filled with football players prompts investigation

Graham Watson


The Department of African and Afro-American Studies at North Carolina is under scrutiny after it was learned that more than a third of the enrollment of the department's 54 courses were football players.

Among those courses, AFAM 280: Blacks in North Carolina, had 19 enrollees and 18 of them were football players. Also, the class lacked an actual professor and any actual instruction.

According to the Raleigh News and Observer, longtime professor and department chair Julius Nyang'oro taught all but nine of the 54 classes and was supposed to be teaching AFAM 280 as a lecture, but instead created a class that only required a 15-page term paper at the end of the semester.

Other records show that football and basketball players made up a majority of the enrollments of nine particularly suspect classes in which the professors listed as instructors have denied involvement, and have claimed that signatures were forged on records related to them.

The new information is more evidence that student athletes, particularly football players, were being steered to classes that university officials now say are evidence of academic fraud because there was little or no instruction. An internal review found 54 such classes, and said all but nine of them were taught by Julius Nyang'oro, the longtime chairman of the African and Afro-American Studies Department. In each case, students were given an assignment such as a term paper and told to turn it in at the end of the semester.

"While it appears that academic support staff [for student athletes] were aware that Professor Nyang'oro didn't intend to teach the class as a standard lecture course, they knew that the students would be required to write a 15-page paper," Thorp said in a letter to trustees. "They saw no reason to question the faculty member's choice of course format."

Added Thorpe: "Anytime you have a class consisting solely of student-athletes, it raises questions."

Nyang'oro was paid $12,000 not to teach the class, which prompted a criminal investigation. Nyang'oro resigned as chairman of the department in September after the university began its investigation and he's due to retire in July.

The NCAA investigation into academic fraud and impermissible benefits resulted in a one-year bowl ban for the Tar Heels. It also cost coach Butch Davis his job in July 2011 and forced athletic director Dick Baddour to resign earlier than he intended.

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