Ex-UNC professor appears at court in football scandal - WRBL

Ex-UNC professor appears at court in football scandal

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HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. -

The former chairman of the African and Afro-American Studies Department at the University of North Carolina appeared at an Orange County courthouse Tuesday morning after being indicted Monday by a grand jury.

Julius Nyang'oro, who was forced into an early retirement in the summer of 2012, will be released on $30,000 bond.

His attorney, Bill Thomas, said Nyang'oro will contest the charges and plead not guilty. 

"There's been one side of this story that's been put forth in the press and he's going to have an opportunity to present his side," Thomas said.

Nyang'oro's uncle, Sichle Sikazwb, defended him Tuesday, saying Nyang'oro did nothing wrong. Sikazwb also questioned why authorities aren't going after others at the university.

Nyang'oro, surrounded by a number of family members, refused to comment to the media.

The State Bureau of Investigation looked into this case for a year and a half, and an SBI agent reviewed about 100,000 emails as part of the investigation.

The case is separate from the investigation conducted by the Secretary of State's office into athletic agents that led to five people being indicted and charged with giving gifts to athletes to get them to sign with a particular agency.

Charged in that case are:

  • Former UNC tutor Jennifer Wiley Thompson
  • Georgia sports agent Terry Watson
  • Former N.C. Central quarterback Michael Wayne Johnson Jr.
  • Georgia real estate agent Patrick Jones
  • Willie Barley, accused of giving former UNC player Robert Quinn a hotel room and cash

The long-running scandal led to the firing of football coach Butch Davis, the eventual resignation of chancellor Holden Thorp, and revealed problems in the African and Afro-American Studies Department, as athletes took classes with little oversight.

"We have been anticipating the SBI report," said UNC faculty chair Jan Boxill. "But during these difficult times, we have implemented policies, procedures, and safeguards that have allowed us to move forward in our unwavering commitment to excellence through our teaching, research, and public service."

In a statement Monday, UNC president Tom Ross noted that he and Chancellor Holden Thorp asked the State Bureau of Investigation to be notified of possible criminal activity stemming from the academic fraud issues at Carolina. 

"We fully support the district attorney's decision to seek an indictment in this case," Ross said.

The issues came to light in 2011 after a summer course included almost entirely football players. The irregularities dated back to 2007.

Ross, in a previous interview, said the problems centered around two people once employed by UNC.

One was the department administrator, Deborah Crowder, who retired a couple of years before the problems were discovered. The other person at the heart of the matter was Nyang'oro.

District Attorney Jim Woodall said one more person could face multiple indictments, but would not confirm if that person is Crowder.

He said Nyang'oro will likely face just the one indictment.

"We looked at several charges. But it's like I said very early on in this case, I didn't think there would be a lot of criminal activity that would be uncovered, and quite frankly we didn't," Woodall said.

"We did find probable cause to find that there were some crimes committed and we're going to charge for those crimes."

Ross said firing Nyang'oro would have no impact on his state pension and could have led to a costly appeal.

Nyang'oro was hired in July 1990. His salary at the time of his resignation was $159,249.

UNC has put in place new rules about how many independent study courses a professor can supervise have been put in place. There are now limits on what students qualify to take them. A contract with specific expectations for students must be created. A new electronic database for grades will now be in place.

"During these difficult times, we have implemented policies, procedures, and safeguards that have allowed us to move forward in our unwavering commitment to excellence through our teaching, research, and public service," said Jan Broxhill, UNC Chair of Faculty.

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Justin Quesinberry

Justin is a reporter for WNCN and a North Carolina native. He has spent the better part of the last decade covering the news in central North Carolina.  More>>

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