Part of North Carolina’s report on academic issues rewritten to keep NCAA away

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These days, if it isn’t one thing it’s another for North Carolina.

There’s the case involving rising junior P.J. Hairston, with there still being questions that need to be answered regarding his relationship with the man who rented two cars that Hairston has driven (Haydn “Fats” Thomas). And there’s also the school’s need to ask a mouthguard manufacturer to stop using an image of former Tar Heel Leslie McDonald to promote their products.

Those situations, especially the one involving Hairston, could allow some to forget the fact that the athletic department also had to deal with allegations of academic fraud that involved the school’s African and Afro-American Studies department.

On Saturday the Raleigh News & Observer reported that Faculty Council Chairman Jan Boxill requested that the writers of a report on the investigation into allegations of academic fraud edit a sentence to minimize the chances of the NCAA looking into the situation as it pertains to the athletic department.

The correspondence shows that hours before the report’s release on July 26, 2012, Faculty Council Chairman Jan Boxill sent the three faculty authors a last-minute email. It suggested they rewrite a sentence that painted a picture of a department manager creating bogus classes to protect athletes’ eligibility to play sports.

The authors grudgingly agreed to it, and some key information disappeared from the final version.

Boxill wrote that the request came from other faculty on the council’s executive committee. “The worry is that this could further raise NCAA issues and that is not the intention,” she said in the email.

One portion of the report that has come into question is a look into the connection that the former department manager of the African and Afro-American Studies program, Deborah Crowder, had with the North Carolina athletic department.

The News & Observer provided both paragraphs, the original and the final version, in its report:

[The original report] said: “Although we may never know for certain, it was our impression from multiple interviews that the involvement of Deborah Crowder seems to have been that of an athletics supporter who was extremely close to personnel in Athletics, and who managed to use the system to help players by directing them to enroll in courses in the African and Afro-American Studies department that turned out to be aberrant or irregularly taught.”

The final version reads: “Although we may never know for certain, it was our impression from multiple interviews that a department staff member managed to use the system to help players by directing them to enroll in courses in the African and Afro-American Studies Department that turned out to be aberrant or irregularly taught.”

How big of a deal is the omission of the bit on Crowder? Well, given the fact that the possibility of academic fraud involving student-athletes would attract more attention from the NCAA this is a pretty big deal. But outside of the sanctions that the football program was hit with (issues involving an agent also played a role), it seems as if North Carolina’s explanation has been accepted.

Will this report prompt the NCAA to look a little closer at North Carolina? That remains to be seen, and at this point in time the last thing the school needs is more attention on what’s happening off the court.

Raphielle can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.