Questioning The Wainstein Report

Of the more than 3,000 UNC students who took advantage of irregular classes in the AFAM Department, the most shocking was a recipient of the prestigious Morehead-Cain Scholarship.

According to the Wainstein Report, the student’s GPA was slipping and he was in danger of losing his scholarship when a Morehead-Cain advisor referred him to AFAM secretary Deborah Crowder, the leader of the paper-class system that provided the opportunity for higher grades than the quality of submitted work justified.

“Crowder placed him in a paper class, he got an A, and was able to keep his scholarship,” the report stated.

This titillating anecdote was offered as embarrassing proof of how widespread the fraud was. Except two months later, the executive director of the Morehead-Cain program announced that it wasn’t true.

“I am pleased to share with you that the allegations about the (Morehead-Cain) Foundation were without merit,” Charles E. Lovelace wrote in an open letter last week.

Lovelace wrote that Wainstein did not have any evidence supporting the allegation, spoke to no one who had personal knowledge of the activity and didn’t interview anyone in the program. The foundation’s lawyers found no evidence that a scholar has been referred to a paper class.

“The allegations were founded entirely on hearsay information by a few individuals not connected to our program,” Lovelace wrote.

The Morehead-Cain incident didn't necessarily impact the serious conclusions reached by Wainstein. But it could serve as an example that not everything in the $3 million report stands up to close scrutiny, a consideration that takes on bigger resonance if the NCAA is indeed using the report as a launching point for its own investigation.

Some of the biggest names in the report, including Butch Davis and Roy Williams, have questioned parts they said weren’t supported by the evidence.

Perhaps the most appalling disclosure in the 131-page report was a slide from a presentation that academic advisors Beth Bridger and Jaimie Lee gave to the football coaching staff in November 2009. The slide explained how the paper-class system helped players stay eligible and how it was ending because of Crowder’s retirement.

“They conveyed this point loud and clear in a meeting with all of the football coaches,” the report stated. In a footnote, it reiterates that “most, if not all, of the football coaching staff was present at the meeting, to include: Butch Davis, Corey Holliday, Andre Williams, and the position coaches.”

It was a damning indictment of a staff that learned about academic fraud and did nothing. But no source is cited for that information, and Davis and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach John Shoop – the only coaches from that season that were interviewed by Wainstein’s staff – said they don’t remember seeing the slide.

“They asked me that exact question and I couldn’t have answered any more clearly. There’s no way that slide was shown in a staff meeting,” Shoop said last week. “I said I was certain I was never in a meeting where that happened, and I would remember that. And to hear the entire staff saw a slide saying bogus classes were going away was almost comical. I assure you I never saw a slide like that.”

Shoop’s denial was not included in the report, and he said that Davis also told Wainstein’s team that he never saw the slide.

Jon Sasser, a lawyer for Butch Davis, questioned why no other coaches from that season were interviewed. Though Wainstein noted that he wasn’t able to speak with Chuck Pagano (an assistant at UNC for one year, in 2007) and then-defensive coordinator Everett Withers, Sasser said that offensive line coach Sam Pittman offered to speak with Wainstein but never heard back, and Ken Browning, who was an assistant at UNC from 1994-2011 and lived in Chapel Hill, was never contacted.

“I can remember as I hung up the phone, having the feeling that I felt disappointed,” said Shoop, who was interviewed by Wainstein team member Jay Joseph. “I felt like unless our story followed their narrative, they didn’t particularly want to talk a great deal.”

Williams, the most high-profile figure involved in the investigation, said he found factual errors in the part that dealt with his tenure. The report stated that 11 of Rashad McCants’s teammates appeared together on ESPN when Williams refuted allegations made by McCants, and that the Wainstein team eventually interviewed seven of the players.

“Those people did an amazing job with all the time and commitments and people and emails,” Williams said during the ACC’s preseason media day in October. “But I’ve used these as examples -- it said that we had 11 players from the ’05 team. It was not, there were seven. Said they talked to seven, they spoke to 10. There was supposedly some meeting, it was reported in there, I had with a group of academic people and tutors, and I told them their job was to keep my team eligible. Didn’t happen. Did not happen. And we cannot find out where it was ever said.”

Again, the number of players interviewed is immaterial to the larger issues of the fraud. But Williams pointed out the mistakes in order to undermine Wainstein’s overall message, including the most damning finding pertaining to Williams – that his hand-picked academic advisor, Wayne Walden, knew about Crowder’s scheme.

Wainstein wrote that Walden worked with Crowder to enroll basketball players in the paper classes and he knew that those students would have no contact with faculty. The report also stated that “he thought Crowder was probably doing some of the grading, though he never knew for sure.” Walden thought the courses were acceptable because they were also taken by regular students, and he never told Williams about what was going on.

Williams questioned if Walden really knew as much as the report suggested.

“There’s a difference between somebody thinking and somebody knowing, and there’s a difference between coming aware in 2004 or 2008 that something had happened three or four years before,” Williams said.

Men’s basketball players had mostly stopped taking the AFAM paper classes by 2008, and Walden left the school in 2009.

Wainstein’s report will likely be the definitive account of this major academic scandal. So some feel that it’s important to examine the report critically – especially now that the NCAA is investigating and could penalize UNC based on the report’s findings if they go unchallenged.

“If the NCAA is going to use that report against the university in terms of what the coaches knew, I vehemently deny any knowledge of that slide,” Shoop said. “That’s untrue, and I sure hope that the NCAA would not rely on that report, but would do the work themselves, because there’s so much to talk about.”

How is UNC defining the Wainstein Report? And will they challenge it? Check back next week for the second edition of Inside Carolina's new ongoing series.

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