University of North Carolina Academic-Athletic Scandal

The University of North Carolina academic-athletic scandal involved alleged fraud and academic dishonesty committed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). Following a lesser scandal that began in 2010 involving academic fraud and improper benefits with the university's football program, two hundred questionable classes offered by the university's African and Afro-American Studies department (commonly known as AFAM) came to light. While initially the media focused more on the implications for the famous UNC men's basketball program, the entire university was placed on probation by its accrediting organization.

An internal investigation by the university released in 2011 and another investigation commissioned by former North Carolina governor Jim Martin in 2012 found numerous academic and ethical issues with the AFAM department, including unauthorized grade changes and faculty signatures, a disproportionate number of independent study class offerings relative to other departments, and an over-representation of student-athletes enrolled in such classes. Then in 2014 began charges and counter-charges between university officials and former learning specialist Mary Willingham, including disputes about statistics and methods of analysis by Willingham alleging that certain student-athletes are not academically qualified for college. As a result of these revelations, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed the university on probation for one year, endangering the university's regional accreditation. Losing accreditation would have resulted in the loss of any federal funding or support.

The university introduced new standards, protocols and rules to ensure nothing similar could ever happen again. As a result, UNC successfully exited probation and regained full standing by June 2016. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) then completed its own investigation in October 2017, finding no violations of its rules, since the NCAA does not interfere with a university's academic programs.

The controversy sparked debate as to whether the university educated some of its student-athletes improperly and called into question the role of NCAA Division I athletics relative to the academic mission of NCAA-member colleges and universities.