Cunningham, who replaced Dick Baddour as director of athletics last October, discussed the topic with InsideCarolina.com on Monday afternoon.
The school's investigation into the Department of African and Afro-American Studies discovered fraud and poor oversight in 54 classes between summer 2007 and summer 2011. Student-athletes represented roughly one-third of the class enrollments.
The school released a 10-page report in early May detailing the investigation’s findings. There was no evidence found of student-athletes receiving favorable treatment over other students or of students receiving grades without submitting work. There was also no information available to indicate that department personnel received any tangible benefits “beyond their standard University compensation.”
Due to the fact that a number of student-athletes were enrolled in some of the AFAM classes, the athletic department is working collaboratively with the College of Arts and Sciences to determine a solution, according to Cunningham.
“The Arts and Sciences oversees academic advising as well as our coordinators for the student-athlete support, so we have to work together to make this work for everyone and I think we’ve come a long way in developing a better dialogue,” Cunningham said. “I think we’ve come a long way in creating systems to ensure that we don’t have a breakdown like we’ve had in the past.”
While media reports have surfaced in recent weeks detailing the AFAM situation through public records requests, that information was already made available to the NCAA dating back to the summer of 2011.
“We have provided everything that we know to the NCAA and have for a long time, so we don’t anticipate any other NCAA issues,” Cunningham said. “Could there be? Certainly. But at this point, we feel like we’ve communicated everything to them, so we don’t anticipate it.”
For its part, the taciturn NCAA has changed its official response to inquiries concerning UNC ever since issuing its infractions report in March. During the inquiry into improper benefits and academic misconduct dating back to 2010, NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn’s standard email reply stated that the organization could not comment on any ongoing investigations.
The NCAA is now referring all questions related to the AFAM situation back to the University.
The current focus for school officials is on preventing a similar predicament from occurring in the future.
“Now we’re really trying to work on, what’s the best solution going forward?” Cunningham said. “How are we going to provide academic counseling to 800 student-athletes that is in keeping with the model at North Carolina that’s consistent with other students on campus?
“The student-athletes do have more interactions with those academic counselors than a regular student would with their advisor, so we just have to be very careful with how we work with each other and make sure that the students are getting a good education and they have the ability to choose the classes that they want, the majors that they want, but they have to be consistently going to class and eligible to be able to participate in sport. So it’s just a delicate balance.”
Cunningham indicated that first-year head coach Larry Fedora and his staff have been active participants in improving the academic infrastructure of the football program.
“A lot of it comes down to accountability,” Cunningham said. “The students have to be accountable to do what they’re asked to do. They have to go to class and do the work. Larry’s been very much about accountability, whether it’s to the team, the workouts or the classroom. He’s been very consistent in that message.”
As the media cycle continues to focus on the past, Cunningham's attention is set on improvements for the future.
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