The scale of an academic scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was far more widespread than previously reported and included about 1,500 athletes who got easy As and Bs over a span of nearly two decades, according to an investigation released today. At least nine university employees were fired or under disciplinary review, and the question now becomes what, if anything, the NCAA will do next. Penalties could range from fewer scholarships to vacated wins. Most of the athletes involved were football players or members of the school's cherished basketball program, which won three of its five national titles during the scandal (1993, 2005, 2009).
In all, about 3,100 students enrolled in classes they didn't have to show up for in what was deemed a "shadow curriculum" within the former African and Afro-American Studies department from 1993 to 2011, the report by former Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein found. Many at the university hoped Wainstein's eight-month investigation would bring some closure to the long-running scandal. Instead, it found more far-reaching academic fraud than previous investigations by the NCAA and the school. The focus was courses that required only a research paper that was often scanned quickly by a secretary, who gave out high grades regardless of the quality of work. The report also outlined how counselors for athletes steered struggling students to the classes. (Read more University of North Carolina stories.)