The legal bills for the University of North Carolina’s defense of a wide-ranging academic scandal have now reached $21 million, according to a report from The News & Observer.
It’s important to note that these costs aren’t just related to legal fees – they also include costs related to public relations and investigations into the allegations. The counter on the costs began in 2012, starting with an investigation launched by ex-North Carolina governor Jim Martin.
The legal, public relations and investigative bills cover several aspects of the university’s handling of the situation involving 18 years of classes that had no instruction and only required a term paper or two that drew high grades. Nearly 190 of those classes were listed as lecture-style classes in university publications; hundreds more were listed as independent studies.
Deborah Crowder, a former administrative aide in the African and Afro-American Studies department, created and graded most of the classes. When she retired in 2009, academic counselors for the football team requested her boss, department chairman Julius Nyang’oro, continue them, which he did until The N&O’s reporting exposed the classes in 2011.
The investigation into the scandal surrounding Crowder and Nyang’oro, led by former Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein, ended up costing the school $3 million. According to The News & Observer, the costs aren’t expected to increase much more than the current tab because of the NCAA’s decision not to sanction UNC and because a trio of lawsuits were dismissed.
But the NCAA, after three rounds of charging documents and a special hearing on jurisdictional issues that spanned three years, only found violations against Nyang’oro and Crowder for a lack of cooperation with its investigation. The NCAA’s infractions committee said it could not sanction UNC for impermissible benefits because evidence showed they weren’t made strictly available to athletes.
The infractions committee also said it could not pursue an academic fraud bylaw violation because NCAA rules give universities the right to determine whether fraud occurred on campus. UNC told the committee the classes were legitimate at the time they were offered, but not after subsequent reforms.
The university also fought off lawsuits by former athletes who claimed they received shoddy educations. State and federal judges turned back three lawsuits.
On the bright side from all this, the school claims that none of the money used to defend themselves came from tuition or state appropriations.