The academic-fraud scandal at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has focused largely on how fake undergraduate classes helped athletes maintain their eligibility to compete. In an article in The News & Observer over the weekend, a former UNC official says athletics officials also sometimes asked the university’s graduate school to bend the rules to admit athletes in order to extend their eligibility.
Cheryl Thomas, who was the graduate school’s admissions director from 2002 to 2010, told the newspaper that, roughly once a year during that period, someone from the athletics department or the UNC administration would contact her with a request to find a place for an athlete. She gave the newspaper details about two athletes—a football player and a men’s basketball player—who were admitted to graduate programs under such circumstances. Neither player completed his program; one of them skipped classes and examinations, and flunked out.
Ms. Thomas said her unwillingness to toe the line over such admissions, along with other unrelated management concerns, put her at odds with her supervisors. She resigned in 2010 after nearly 22 years as a university employee.
The current dean of the graduate school and a former dean who admitted one of the athletes said academic departments have different criteria for admission and can request exceptions to allow for a late application or low grades and test scores. They declined to discuss decisions regarding specific students.