University of North Carolina officials are leaning toward creating an outside panel to investigate an academic fraud case that allegedley involves student athletes and possibly former Tar Heel and Chicago Bears defensive end Julius Peppers.
Former Gov. Jim Martin has apparently been asked to serve on the panel. When asked this morning, he didn't deny it. His response: "You are on your toes."
He said he expected an announcement about the panel later today.
The academic fraud involves at least 54 classes in which there was little or no instruction, and dozens of independent studies that showed little accountability. All were courses within the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, but university officials say the only two culpable people in the case are the former chairman, Julius Nyang'oro, who was forced to retire in July, and a former department manager, Deborah Crowder, who had retired in 2009.
The university's internal probe covered the period of 2007 to 2011, but new evidence suggests the fraud may have gone back to the late 1990s. A 2001 test transcript we found on UNC-CH's website and published in Saturday's paper -- because it shared many similarities with the no-show classes and independent studies -- appears to be that of former UNC football and basketball player Julius Peppers.
Rival N.C. State University fans dissected the web address for that test transcript to find a link to what appears to be the real one. UNC-CH officials have only said the transcript appears to be real, but they can't discuss it because of a federal privacy law for education records.