UNC investigating academic infractions
CHAPEL HILL -- The investigation of the football program at UNC Chapel Hill has expanded into possible academic misconduct involving players and a woman who has also worked as a tutor for coach Butch Davis' son.
UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour and UNC Football Head Coach Butch Davis spoke about what they called "improprieties that occurred outside the classroom" at a news conference Thursday evening.
"To everyone who loves this university, I'm sorry for what I have to tell you ..." said Thorp as he revealed why the football team is now the focus of a second NCAA investigation.
Few details about the misconduct have been released, because an investigation is underway.
However, the chancellor did say the incident involves a former undergraduate tutor and student athletes. Officials did not identify the female tutor, the players or say how many may be involved.
"We will find out what happened and we will not let these mistakes happen again ..." Thorp said.
An ESPN report says the tutor wrote term papers for as many as nine players. The tutor also worked with Coach Davis' son - who's a quarterback at East Chapel Hill High School. ESPN reports as many as 15 players in total may be involved in some kind of plagiarism.
"One of five individuals employed by our family in the past three years as an academic coach and adviser," said Davis while answering questions about the tutor. "This is someone that obviously worked with our son, you know I'm to be honest with you, I'm a little surprised and obviously disappointed."
During the conference, officials said they did not yet know the extent of the issue because they are at the beginning to middle stages of their investigation. A team of academic leaders has been assembled to look into the misconduct.
North Carolina's athletic director said the university discovered the violations through its own investigators, while cooperating with NCAA officials in a current probe.
"Academic integrity is at the heart of what the University of North Carolina and the Department of Athletics are all about," Baddour said.
He also said there is no timetable for a resolution and the review may extend into the start of the season.
"This investigation now has two prongs; so I want to caution you against making assumptions if student athletes don't play," Baddour said.
Friday, Prof. Steven Reznick - a psychology professor who chairs the UNC Athletic Committee spoke with ABC11 about the investigation.
"The main thing I hope is we can get this clarified very quickly," he said.
Reznick says he still has complete faith in Davis and his coaching staff in leading a team of players who are college students first.
"This would not be a school that views its football coach with suspicion," Reznick offered. "The coach Butch Davis that I know would not have supported or encouraged any kind of inappropriate behavior by a tutor."
The NCAA had already been investigating UNC for possible violations involving current football players, former players and one assistant coach.
According to the NCAA, some players may have had improper contact with sports agents and possibly received improper benefits.
UNC's chancellor says it's a privilege for the players to represent UNC and it's his job to make sure they've earned it.
"I know that Dick and Coach Davis feel as strongly about this as I do and I have every confidence in their ability to lead our program through this. We will find out what happened," Thorp said.
Before the news conference, the team's football practice was closed to the media and a previously scheduled post-practice interview with Davis was canceled.
"If it comes out that the coaches knew about it, that's a different story and that makes me question the integrity of the program," UNC fan Shane Ryan said.
"If that's really true, then that's terrible," UNC Grad Student Nick Weidenmiller said. "I'm disappointed in Dick Baddour, I'm disappointed in Butch Davis, I'm disappointed in the university, but to be honest, I'd find it very hard to believe if that was happening."
Ryan says he is hoping the investigation reveals only one or two players were involved and not more.
"The more you lose, the more it hurts the program, that's for sure," Ryan said. "I mean the defense is the cornerstone of the program and if they're losing a couple starters, they're going to have a tough time competing in the ACC."
The team is poised to match its top 25 preseason ranking of number 18 and is scheduled to play their opening game against LSU on Sept. 4.
Baddour said Thursday that "it is likely that the review would extend beyond the start of the season." If that happens, he said the school will decide if the players involved will play.
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