Can Academic Scandal Affect This Year’s North Carolina Tar Heels?

Roy Williams

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

For those of you that do not know, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill athletic department is under investigation for a possible academic scandal. To put it nicely, the basketball team may be screwed.

The school is one of the most prestigious universities in the entire country, and the students that are admitted to the school perform tremendously when it comes to academics. Of course, the athletes at the school do not just play their respective sport, but they participate academically as well, which most fans overlook. Players on the basketball team receive scholarships, most of them four-year, to attend classes while playing the sport. The students must maintain a ‘C’ average in order to be eligible to play their sport, and the NCAA is accusing the school of giving their athletes an unfair advantage in order to obtain such an average.

Most of the athletes that attend the school, particularly in their football and basketball programs, are not the type of the students that attend the school solely for academics. They may not have received the appropriate grades that others received in order to be accepted into the university, but managed to get in due to their athletic abilities. For these student athletes, the university placed them into classed called independent study. These independent study courses are supposed to give athletes an opportunity to receive extra tutoring and assistance to complete their appropriate academic studies while participating in their sport. The only problem with this is the fact that the student are not required to attend the class, but they are only required to submit a paper at the end of each semester. The professors of these classes always gave the students A’s or B’s, so they are essentially just classes set up in order to boost a student athletes grade point average (GPA).

It is obvious as to why this is illegal in terms of NCAA rules and regulations, because the athletes basically have one less course than all the other students and receive unfair grades. The professors automatically give them a high grade and give them an unfair advantage on these final papers. The athletes call these independent study classes “paper classes,” because if they submit the one paper at the end of the semester, then they have completed all of their requirements. Apparently, these paper classes have been in effect dating all the way back to the Tar Heels’ 2005 national championship team. This means that some of their most profound players of all time, including Raymond Felton and Sean May, have passed through the university almost illegally. Who knows whether or not current players such as Marcus Paige and James Michael McAdoo are receiving the same illegal benefits.

Right now, it seems that the NCAA is close to cracking the case and revealing that the university has been illegally giving their athletes illegal academic benefits in order for them to fully succeed in their respective sports. If this does happen, then sanctions will be placed within each program that has been taking part in the scandal. The NCAA could possibly revoke the Tar Heels’ 2005 and 2009 championships, and any other successes they have had in the years moving forward. Players could be subject to suspension and even head coach Roy Williams can face serious consequences.

This year’s Tar Heel team is already struggling on the court, and the last thing they need is to have struggles off the court. P.J. Hairston has already been expelled as a result of receiving impermissible benefits, and now the school faces many other possible suspension as a result of this much larger scandal. It is very scary to think about, but if the NCAA does declare the Tar Heels’ academic tactics as an illegal scandal, then they could possibly be banned from future postseason play and a tremendous loss in scholarships.

Only time will tell whether or not this nightmare becomes reality, but for now, this is a very frightening thought that the Tar Heels hope they can avoid. After all, the entire Tar Heel basketball team is student athletes, and even though we only view them as athletes, the NCAA is more focused on their roles as students. If they are found to be cheating their roles as students, then the Tar Heels are in a tremendous amount of trouble.

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  • Laffin’atcha

    If they didn’t study fairly, take the championships. Make an example for the rest of the NCAA schools and then publish a list of schools to be audited providing an amnesty period to come clean before the audit.

    • Mama Pope’s Chewed Wrists

      Spoken like a true UNC hater.

  • Big Diesel

    This must be breaking news because UNC is not under investigation by the NCAA, nor is the basketball team “screwed.” This is a lame attempt at a “story” based on uneducated assumptions that have no facts to back up any of the false claims….flame on!!!

    • Jeremy Roth

      Watch the documentary titled Schooled: The Price of College Sports. There is a segment in the documentary that outlines the NCAA’s involvement with the university and their academics. Just because it is not all over SportCenter, it does not mean that this is breaking news. The reason it hasn’t been brought to the public’s full attention just yet is due to the fact that there are very few pieces of information regarding the scandal as a whole. These are just the beginning facts I gathered from research and from the segment in the documentary. Before you call a story lame or uneducated, educate yourself a little bit more about the topic you are reading about.

      • Matt

        So you know for an absolute 100% fact that Raymond Felton and Sean May participated in this program (Your article insinuated this)? Who gave you that fact? Because UNC would not give this information to anyone but NCAA. So IF you just put their names into the story because they were big time players on a national championship team without the facts then your credibility as a journalist is now tarnished. (I’m not saying you don’t have the fact, I just want to know where you got it from.)

        Also, this happens at virtually every major university in some fashion. It’s unfortunate that UNC is under the radar again.

        • Jeremy Roth

          I never said that they 100% participated in it, but in my research it said that it has been going on since 2004, and since they played on the 2005 national championship team it is very possible. I just used those two players as an example of those on one of the teams that is under investigation. Almost like a “remember who was on this team” kind of thing. Like I said in a previous comment, the documentary Schooled: The Price of College Sports outlines all of the facts that I described in the article.

          • Big Diesel

            Your “research” is about as reliable as Ms. Willingham’s (which has been refuted by UNC with FACTS). Again, your claim of UNC being investigated currently by the NCAA is completely false. I also noticed that you have written a back-peddling piece as well. Maybe you realized your “research” was very flawed like your claims above. Also, throwing names out there and insinuating they are involved in stuff is pretty reckless in itself.

          • Jeremy Roth

            Hence the follow up article where I said that the university refuted her statements. Looks like someone is still yet to watch the documentary that I said the research was from that is not my problem. I guess I am just a pretty reckless writer, thank you for noticing. By the way, these are all opinionated pieces on the site, so nothing has to be straight fact is all of our own insight.

          • Big Diesel

            You claim that UNC is currently being investigated by the NCAA (which apparently you edited out now) and base this assumption on a documentary you watched (one you claim as your research) that came out several months ago? The NCAA looked at this over a year ago and deemed it an academic issue, not an athletic one. Therefore, there is no current NCAA investigation into UNC as you claim. I understand these are opinion pieces, but to disregard the actual facts and make false claims is not an opinion, that’s just making stuff up. It is obvious that “nothing has to be straight facts” when it comes to this site. As for being reckless, yes, that is obvious when you write lines like “…Raymond Felton and Sean May, have passed through the university almost illegally.” But again, “nothing has to be straight facts,” right?!?!

          • Jeremy Roth

            First of all, what exactly are you getting out of criticizing an aspiring journalists blog? Secondly, the NCAA is still looking into it, there are new facts about it released all the time and I found it interesting so I wrote about it to shed light on the topic. You are not an editor, just a reader, so I suggest you stop trying to bash someone’s hard work just because you do not agree with it.

          • Big Diesel

            I’m sorry, I thought you wrote this on a public site for many to see and read. I didn’t realize your worthless drivel was above criticism (with facts that disagree with it, not just myself). If you would have presented this blog in a better way maybe it wouldn’t have warranted such a response. Your piece wreaked of an agenda, one that was grossly misguided, so I responded to it. I apologize for pointing out the loose ends in your blog, please carry on with your fictional writings. I’ve wasted enough time on it anyway…good luck to you, sir!

          • Jeremy Roth

            Thank you Mr. Diesel!

          • Dez Wells

            I sincerely hope some random stranger punches you scare in the dick when you least expect it, Big Diesel. Leave the dude alone.. If you don’t like what he has to say then get the fuck off the blog.

      • jeffgrady

        google VaTech and African American program. Look at their curriculum. Plenty of paper classes and independent study courses. Respond please!

    • Dom Palermo

      Big Diesel must have a tiny dick

  • Larry Woodruff

    Really the NCAA is more focused on their role as students?

    • Jeremy Roth

      The NCAA has the responsibility of handling the athletes as students as well. After all, they are just students that participate in their university’s athletics.

  • Bryan Thomas

    I hope they get the death penalty like SMU in both sports!

    • Mama Pope’s Chewed Wrists

      Still sour over that rejection letter, huh?

      • BAURS14

        Love how everyone that thinks unc should get in trouble, they feel that way bc they didn’t go to unc. Fact is 90% of unc fans didn’t go to unc either. Most of my friends that did go to unc are actually embarrassed by the whole situation and rightfully so. Reality check for you Mama Pope, not everyone that went to another college wanted to go to unc so get over yourself and your school. Seems the ones that say this realize that their degree from unc won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on. Have great day.

  • Bill McKinney

    Sounds like Jeremy Roth is a Dookie.

  • restonpack1

    I hope the scandal only affects sports and nothing more serious, but this was posted yesterday by a crazed Tar Heel fan (username contains “rev”):

    “Tch-tchikk. Here, you take this loaded .30-30 lever-action, I’ll use the 7 mm. Even the church sometimes needs to be militant. And as The University of North Carolina we’re not the church, we are a great secular university which has been under attack by a consortium of imbeciles. They need to pay the price.”

    What are you going to do with a .30-30 and a 7mm that will result in your critics “paying the price”? Are you going to hunt deer? That’ll show them? It’s pretty obvious what he’s saying. I’m sure he’d say it’s just it’s a metaphor and that may be true. But I find it odd that you’d choose real-world rifles that a lot of people actually have, in that case, rather than talking abstractly about sending a battleship or attacking with tanks. And this is from someone who claims to be religious and to teach a class in ethics! The whole university culture is FAR off the rails.

    With the events that have happened in America in the past year or two, shall we roll the dice that this was intended as a mere metaphor and will be taken that way by other crazed Tar Heel fans?

    For anyone who isn’t aware – and “rev” surely is aware of this – Mary Willingham has been under protection of UNC campus police for more than a week due to receiving multiple death threats. But it’s all fun and games in “rev’s” mind.

    P.S. Of the dozen or so people who replied to “rev’s” post – all but two or three agreed with and applauded him. A message board moderator issued a warning to someone who disagreed with him. The thread did ultimately get locked, though, so maybe there’s a moderator there with some sense.

  • M_N

    Mr. Roth, do you have information that indicates the NCAA is actually looking at this and is poised to act, or are you just hoping that’s what happens? It is clear that these fraud “paper classes” are an NCAA violation in every form and provided UNC with the recruiting advantage of essentially promising any athlete a diploma without any eligibility issues no matter what. That is a massive advantage. “Come here and not only will you get a degree, we’ll make sure you are never in academic trouble so you can concentrate on your game and making it to the NFL/NBA/etc.” The punishment needs to be severe and swift. I just don’t know if the NCAA will do it to one of their favored sons.

  • Matty Haines

    Lets ask this one question, If this was true which most likely not…. Do you think they are the only one. Make these kids go to class so they get the proper education. One day sports will not exist (not likely but you never know) and these poor kids will have nothing to fall back on.

    • M_N

      Are they the only one to….put woefully substandard academically inclined athletes in fake no-show “paper classes” that never meet and change 500+ grades over the course of multiple decades in order to keep their 5* athletes on the field/court in order to sell tickets and hang banners?
      Most likely, yes.

  • Steve F Jones

    PJ Hairston expelled?

    I took a “paper class” too and I wasn’t an athlete. They’re available to everyone. And it was a 40 page paper. Nice try.

    Where did you go to school?

    • Shanika Paylor


      I, too, completed a self-study course at UNC when I was an Undergrad there (2004-2008). I was not an athlete and receiving a passing grade for my work in the course didn’t benefit UNC in the manner in which the author describes.

      If you read the description in the Undergraduate Course Catalog, you’ll note several majors that offer independent study courses, all of which culminate in an extensive research project. The course is designed for students to research any topic pertaining to their discipline, though that topic must be approved by the faculty member who oversees the course. Other than that requirement, the course model is completely non-traditional — there are no class meet dates or times, there are no exams or other assignments, and there are no requirements for attendance. The only requirement is that the student complete the project at the close of that term.

      Now, by no means can you earn your entire degree by completing independent study courses, however, most every student has the opportunity to earn academic credit via this method. My point in saying all of this? How are student athletes “benefiting” or receiving some unfair advantage, if all 29 odd thousand of UNC’s students have the same chance to take the course? How is completing the requirements of the course considered to be “illegal” by NCAA standards? How do they have “one less course” than other students when all other students may choose this course option from the course catalog? Note that the course must be completed and passed with a grade of C or better to be applied to the student’s requirements for his major.

      I’m all in favor of free expression and I respect the writer’s contribution to the dialog about this situation. However, I echo the other commenters sentiments when I encourage the author to get his facts straight and to write without the assumption that student athletes were given special privileges and that some of those athletes (who he had the audacity to indict by name) were “illegally” passed through the university. This piece had the opportunity to contribute to the overall discussion about NCAA violations, however the blogger’s slant, alongside what appears to be hearsay, only further muddies the larger conversation about the matter.

      (Oh! Might I add that perpetuating these assumptions and misconceptions is pretty dangerous, even without the conversation about race. The fact that the author only mentioned prominent African American athletes that were “illegally” passed through the university, is equally troubling, considering that he neglected to mention that other, prominent (white) athletes like Tyler Zeller and Tyler Hansbrough were attending the university within the same era. I normally hate to throw the race card, however, the writer’s perspectives would be a bit more palatable if he took the time to indict athletes of other races, as well, while mentioning the Sean Mays and Ray Feltons that graduated from UNC).

  • A_E_M

    Guess you did not watch the game where the announcers spoke about the classes that Marcus Paige was taking. Dan Kane and Duke must be so proud of you!

  • A_E_M

    I usually skim over stuff like this. But I am so done with the UNC bashing. Here is first proof that this is just a lot of BS … … Hairston was not expelled. Way to sling stuff at the wall and see if it sticks!

    Hairston also said he is enrolled in an online course at UNC.

    “[I am] taking a class in my major that will be applied towards getting my communications degree. I turned in my first assignment yesterday,” he said. “I am excited to continue to pursue my degree at UNC while also pursing my dream of becoming a professional basketball player.”

    Hey, do not let facts get in the way of your cheap shots! Good luck with your career, I am sure N&O can use you if Dan Kane retires!

  • Heel4life

    Well done Jeremy…you have distorted facts and used supposition as a guise to create buzz and you’ve definitely accomplished your goal. It’s sad to see you stoop to this level and your reasoning that this “doesn’t have to be straight facts” speaks volumes about your journalistic integrity…I’m a former blogger and ghost write for a major sports portal and would offer you some advice against generating this as a part of your journalistic profile…good luck.

  • Scott Cole

    What garbage. Based on the grammatical errors contained in this birdcage liner, I’d say YOU need to attend some journalism classes. Nice try, troll. This is a pathetic attempt to start an uproar with no proof. Nothing to see here…move along folks.

  • JennyB

    For an “opinion” piece, as you call it, Jeremy, you sure have a very factual tone. Perhaps some of the independent studies in UNC’s award-winning School of Journalism could help you with that.

  • Jeremy Roth Critique

    Did you even proof read any of this? Horrible article and horribly written with grammatical errors. I can’t take this guy or web page seriously.

  • Myron Piggie

    Turns out John Henson’s SCAM tshirt was right on point.

  • jeffgrady

    Google VaTech and African American Studies. then check out the underclass offerings in this area. Plenty of independent study courses where a “paper may be required”. Many courses sculpted to meet student’s individual interests.