An Indianapolis Star report two years ago on basketball team graduation rates is catching attention today in light of the academic fraud case at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The report notes that seven of the players on UNC-Chapel Hill's 2005 championship team who had graduated by the time the story was published all received the same degree -- a bachelor of arts in African and Afro-American Studies.
The Star interviewed Sean May, who was the center for the team, and his comments have a particular resonance today, with the university now acknowledging a major academic fraud case in that department involving classes with little or no instruction. Many of these classes have high enrollments of athletes in the two big money sports -- basketball and football.
According to the Star: 'May said he started as a double major with communications, but dropped it so he could graduate faster after leaving for the NBA.Afro-American and African studies, May said, offered "more independent electives, independent study. I could take a lot of classes during the season. Communications, I had to be there in the actual classroom. We just made sure all the classes I had to take, I could take during the summer."'
May left the school for the NBA following the 2005 championship, but collected his degree four years later. It's unclear what classes he took or who taught them. The academic fraud centers on the former chairman, Julius Nyang'oro, who is being allowed to retire effective July 1.
The Star's report said the high number of African studies graduates on the basketball team raises issues of "clustering," in which athletes are steered to a particular course of instruction because it's easier to accomplish. But John Blanchard, UNC-CH's senior associate athletics director in charge of student-athletes services, told the Star that wasn't the case.
"The question is whether they are getting a good education," he said, "and the answer is a resounding yes."
May is one of more than a dozen prominent athletes listed as Facebook friends with Deborah Crowder, the former administrative assistant for the department who has declined to be interviewed by university officials investigating the academic fraud.
The Star's report can be found here.