Former UNC football player calls academic environment for athletes ‘a scam’

Dr. Saturday

Former North Carolina football player Michael McAdoo said the academic environment for athletes at the university was "a scam" and said he was enrolled in four no-show classes on the advice of counselors.

One of the classes was titled "AFAM 280: Blacks in North Carolina." It never met. All 19 of the students enrolled in the summer of 2011 were current or former football players.

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From the Raleigh News & Observer:

“They pretty much put me in that class,” McAdoo said of the counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes. “They pretty much told me ... that I might want to consider that class and I really don’t have much time to think about it, so (I might) want to take that class while it was available.”

The professor in charge of the class was Julius Nyang’oro. Before resigning in 2011, he was in charge of the African and Afro-American studies department for 20 years. In December, Nyang'oro was indicted by a grand jury on a felony charge of obtaining property by false pretenses. He was paid for the AFAM 280 class he never taught, part of the allegations of academic fraud for athletes that has enveloped the university.

Nyang'oro resigned after the university started investigating his department. The investigation found that over 50 African studies classes in the past five years had scant evidence of actually meeting. Athletes made up 45 percent of the classes' enrollment.

A follow-up investigation found that over 200 classes were suspected or confirmed no-show classes since the mid-1990s. While the university said it found that athletic officials had no role in setting up the classes, the News & Observer reported it found correspondence that "showed counselors there knew the classes didn’t meet and weren’t challenging" and "counselors steered academically-challenged freshmen football players into one such class, which was listed in a course catalog as a seminar for seniors majoring in African studies."

The NCAA also investigated and hit North Carolina with a one-year bowl ban for the 2012 season. Former coach Butch Davis was fired in July of 2o11 and athletic director Dick Baddour announced his resignation a day later.

McAdoo was kicked off the team in 2010 after a tutor had done work on his term papers. He later sued the university for breach of contract, but North Carolina had kept him on athletic scholarship.

He missed two seasons of football because of the violations and said he never received anything less than an A- until he was in trouble. He said this week that he was one of those freshman football players who had been steered into a no-show class.

“I didn't think twice about it,” McAdoo told the News & Observer. “I was young and they was like, ‘You could get a quick three (credit) hours.’”

This week, Mary Willingham, a UNC learning specialist who helped uncover the scandal, was named as a witness in the Ed O'Bannon case because of her research into athletes' academic abilities.

Willingham has filed a seven page "declaration" of support for athletes in a U.S. District Court. In that statement, she said that approximately 60 percent of 182 athletes screened between 2005 and 2012 had fourth-to-eighth grade reading levels and that 39 percent were found to be learning disabled.

She also said that 17 players on the 2013 North Carolina football team had a combined GPA of 2.3. UNC officials have questioned Willingham's findings and she handed her information over to the school this week. Thursday, the school said she cannot continue with her research until she goes through a review board.

McAdoo never graduated from North Carolina. He now plays for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the CFL.

“I felt like I was done wrong," McAdoo said. "The university didn’t stand up; they didn’t have my back. They said academics is the first thing they were going to push – ‘You are going to do academics and then play sports.’ But come to find out it just felt like it was all a scam.”

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Nick Bromberg is the assistant editor of Dr. Saturday on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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