Heads Carolina, Tails California

Though the headlines for off-the-field problems have been hogged by Penn State University and the coverup of sexual abuse/rape by a former defense coach of the football program, an equally troubling story isn’t receiving near the amount of coverage because it harkens back to the Jan Kemp/University of Georgia scandal from the early 1980s.

In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the University of North Carolina, every individual who has ever graduated from the flagship school of the state should have their head lowered in shame, knowing that for more than a decade primarily Black athletes (on both the football and basketball teams) have been involved in massive academic fraud:

Academic Fraud in the Afro-American History Department at UNC:

Football and basketball players accounted for nearly four of every 10 students enrolled in 54 classes at the heart of an academic fraud investigation at UNC-Chapel Hill, according to figures released Monday.

The classes were all within UNC’s Department of African and Afro-American studies. An internal probe released Friday produced evidence of unauthorized grade changes and little or no instruction by professors. Forty-five of the classes listed the department’s chairman, Julius Nyang’oro, as the professor. Investigators could not determine instructors for the remaining nine.

University officials say they found no evidence that the suspect classes were part of a plan between Nyang’oro and the athletic department to create classes that student-athletes could pass so they could maintain their eligibility. They said student-athletes were treated no differently in the classes than students who were not athletes. 

But the high percentages of student-athletes in the classes suggest to some that academic advisers, tutors and others in the athletic department may have guided them to the classes.

There were 686 enrollments for the 54 suspect classes. Of those, football players accounted for 246 of the enrollments, or 36 percent, while basketball players accounted for 23 enrollments, or three percent, according to UNC. Together, football and basketball players accounted for 39 percent of the enrollments.

Football and basketball players account for less than one percent of the total undergraduate enrollment – about 120 of the more than 18,500 undergraduate students on campus. On the other hand, many of the suspect classes were held in the summer, a time when many football players are on campus.

 It should be noted that of the enrollment of students at North Carolina, 3.4 percent are Black males. Much like the majority of the ideas touted as fact in the “Afrocentric” view of history, the UNC Department of African and Afro-American History is a 100 percent fraudulent entity with two purposes: award degrees to Black students who otherwise wouldn’t qualify academically for real-majors and never, ever would have the opportunity to become a tenured professor of Afro-American History at another university or college; and two, keep Black athletes eligible to play for UNC football and basketball teams. Just ask the academic titan that is Julius Peppers:

On the football field, Julius Peppers was one of the most dominating players to ever wear a UNC uniform, an athlete dubbed a “freak of nature” so skilled that he helped take the university’s men’s basketball team to the Final Four in 2000.

But in the classroom, Peppers was a marginal student with a grade point average so low he was continually at risk of losing the opportunity to play, according to an academic transcript bearing his name. What kept bailing him out were several classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, a relatively young academic unit led by department chair Julius Nyang’oro.

A transcript bearing Peppers’ name, found over the weekend in an odd portal on a UNC website, shows a subpar academic record: a 1.82 grade point average and 11 grades of D or F. It also suggests that the academic fraud already confirmed by the university in the African studies department goes much further back than it had previously been able to confirm. 

Peppers’ transcript, and a second one that practically mirrors it, show he received grades of B or better in seven classes within the department, offerings found in later years to be academically suspect. Without those grades, it’s unlikely Peppers would have kept his GPA high enough to play sports. UNC records show Nyang’oro taught or supervised at least three of those classes.

Translation: the UNC Afro-American History Department was an incubator for cooking the books on Black athletes grades.  No big deal though, right? Nothing to see at UNC. Move along now.

Out west in California, Stanford University has put together a string of successful seasons in spite of having high academic standards that keep the recruitment of the poster-children for the “No Child Left Behind” Act an impossible proposition:

Everything in college football starts with recruiting.

Stanford administrators have estimated that only 400 of the 3,500 high school prospects who sign letters of intent each year meet their admissions standards. A year into the job, Harbaugh doubted that number.

“We’re probably looking at a pool of 100 to 150 scholar-athletes,” he said at the time. “It’s a small pool. Smaller than anybody else has.”

Consider that Stanford consistently ranks near the top of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rates and nearly half of the upperclassmen on the current roster are enrolled in engineering majors.

Many people believe that the academy integrity of elite institutions is important; many more believe that enrolling the type of athletes at the University of North Carolina who require enrollment in Afro-American classes (classes that teach more fiction than a Greek Mythology course) just to maintain eligibility is much more important, so that the football and basketball teams can stay competitive.

Nearly thirty years the coordinator of the English section of Georgia’s Developmental Studies Program at the University of Georgia (UGA), Jan Kemp, was demoted to the post of remedial English teacher for speaking out against preferential academic treatment accorded athletes at the university. Nearly all of the athletes she dealt with were Black males who only attended UGA because of the perceived advantage their presence on the gridiron gave to the Bulldog team.

Sports Illustrated (This Case Was One For The Books
Jan Kemp won $2.58 million in a suit that bared academic abuses involving the athletes at Georgia, by William Nack, February 24, 1986) published this important story after Kemp successfully sued the university:

The size of the award provoked cries of anguish among some state officials. “Good God!” blurted Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy on hearing the news. Gov. Joe Frank Harris, shaken, said simply, “It’s a little excessive, unbelievable really.”

By the time the jury had reached its verdict, however, the only things patently excessive were a) the ineptness of the university’s presentation of its case, and b) the cynical attitude of some of its leading administrators toward what Kemp termed the university’s “exploitation” of its athletes, particularly the black ones, in its use of the remedial learning program to get them into school and keep them eligible for sports.

Cynical is a barely adequate word to describe the comments of Ervin, the head of the remedial learning program and an assistant university vice-president. In the course of the trial, a transcript of a secretly taped meeting of school officials was introduced, revealing that Ervin, who is black, had made the following statement—out of “frustration,” he says—regarding the poor educational backgrounds of some of the black athletes in the remedial program:

“Now, you talk about [how] these kids are not taught in high school. They aren’t. We try to teach them here, but there is no way to do it. The majority of these kids are black that are coming in, and it kind of rips in at me at the insides, and I take it very, very personal. I know for a fact that these kids would not be here if it were not for their utility to the institution. There is no real sound academic reason for their being here other than to be utilized to produce income. They are used as a kind of raw material in the production of some goods to be sold…and they get nothing in return….”

Kemp, who has two children and whose husband Bill is a high school teacher, was hired by Georgia as the coordinator of the English section of the Developmental Studies Program in September 1978. The program is a well-intentioned outgrowth of affirmative action policies designed to make a university education available to students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Athletes comprise 17% of the program’s current enrollment of about 335 students. The courses, designed to teach basic skills such as reading and writing to sometimes functionally illiterate students, do not count for credits toward a degree. Students ordinarily have four chances to pass each remedial course. If they achieve a C or better and pass a basic skills test, they are allowed to enroll in regular university courses. If they fail after four attempts, they are supposed to be dismissed from the university…

The conflict came to a head in December 1981 when Trotter, a former assistant secretary for education in the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, allowed nine football players to “exit” from the remedial learning program to the university curriculum, despite the fact that they had all failed their fourth and final quarter in English. The players went on to play in the 1982 Sugar Bowl, but in a position paper the athletic department said there was no wrongdoing. Trotter, a former home economics professor, admitted in court that athletes received preferential treatment at the university, but defended her action on promoting the nine students. “I felt they deserved an opportunity because of the work they had done,” Trotter testified. “I felt they had made great progress.”

[Then UGA head football coach Vince] Dooley, once the chairman of the American Football Coaches Association’s Ethics Committee, admitted during the trial that, “Because of the similar approaches by other institutions, we were placed in a position of offering scholarship aid to student-athletes who were very, very poorly academically prepared. It became obvious that we had to take some numbers that were high risk.” In other words everybody else was doing it so Georgia had to do it, too.

Georgia president Fred Davison similarly tried to justify the university’s recruitment practices by saying, “We have to compete [with rival schools] on a level playing field.” Referring to Georgia athletes, Davison also said: “If they leave us being able to read, write, communicate better, we simply have not done them any damage.”

What do some other college sports officials think about the Georgia case? Gene Corrigan, the director of athletics at Notre Dame, said, “I just don’t want to sound holier than thou. What I’m saying is that there might be 50 or 60 other schools that could make the same claim as Georgia.” Doug Single, the AD at Northwestern, suggested that schools with high academic standards should schedule each other and not worry about playing schools with lower priorities.

Davison, who brought a number of coaches and educators together in 1982 to try to improve national academic standards for incoming athletes, also testified that Georgia supported tougher NCAA admissions policies that will begin to take effect in September, but that the school “would not unilaterally disarm…. One institution in our community can’t drop out and survive.” This from the president of a school that graduated only 16 of 66 black football players since the team integrated in 1971.

 16 of 66 Black football players (this story was published in 1986) had graduated at UGA since integration: that’s 24 percent. But “Thank God  Earl Warren” right, or else UGA wouldn’t have had the opportunity to win the 1980 National Championship behind the running of Hershel Walker (long rumored to be one of the players allowed to play, though he hadn’t passed remedial classes). It should be noted that in 2000, 94 percent of the freshmen football players at UGA were “special admits” to the school (of that recruiting class, more than 90 percent were Black).

But it doesn’t matter, does it? Most alumni of the big schools, especially in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), and even the new Pac-12 (which Stanford belongs to) will gladly choose “heads” for Carolina, if it means victory on the football field or a trip to March Madness.

“Tails” for California (the methodology used by Stanford for recruiting athletes and maintaining high academic standards and integrity): a choice that few alumni of any major schools would choose. 

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