A former admissions director at the University of North Carolina said she felt pressured into admitting student-athletes who she felt were not academically qualified to attend the school, according to a report in the Raleigh News & Observer.
Former graduate school admissions director Cheryl Thomas told the News & Observer that roughly once per year, the school's athletic department would ask her to "find a place" for a prospective athlete.
The report specifically cites the admittance of one such athlete, former North Carolina football player Michael Waddell, who had "a low grade point average, no entrance exam score and was months past the [admissions] deadline." In 2003, admission into a North Carolina graduate program was nonetheless sought for Waddell by an athletic official, according to the report.
University correspondence provided to the newspaper by Thomas reportedly indicated that Waddell skipped classes and exams as a graduate student, and flunked out with numerous "F" grades. Thomas advised her superiors Waddell should not be admitted, she told the News & Observer.
The request to admit Waddell reportedly passed through a provost as well as then-dean Linda Dykstra, who admitted the cornerback and kick returner.
From the News & Observer report:
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.
She said admitting unqualified athletes to highly competitive graduate school programs so they can continue playing is fundamentally wrong. UNC’s graduate school typically rejects about two-thirds of the roughly 15,000 students who apply each year.
“You can’t turn down thousands of people and say yes to one just so he can play basketball,” she said.
The report comes just months after a former federal prosecutor appointed by the university released a report detailing how a lack of academic oversight at North Carolina allowed for the formation of several "paper classes" in which students received high grades in exchange for minimal work.
A separate News & Observer report from 2014 found that players from the 2005 North Carolina national championship team took dozens of 'bogus' classes.
Waddell, UNC basketball coach Roy Williams and a former athletic department official declined comment for the story.
- Will Green