NCAA
Associated Press 442d

Attorney for former UNC academic counselor disputes charge

Women's College Basketball, NCAA, North Carolina Tar Heels

RALEIGH, N.C. -- The attorney for a former North Carolina women's basketball academic counselor and faculty member who is accused by the NCAA of wrongdoing is pushing back against the charge -- and the investigative process itself.

Randall Roden, who represents Jan Boxill, filed a 54-page response this week to an NCAA charge that Boxill provided improper academic assistance to athletes.

That was one of five charges against UNC tied to its long-running academic fraud scandal. Roden's response included a letter to the NCAA complaining of an "impossibly burdensome and fundamentally unfair" process for gathering and reviewing evidence in the case.

Namely, the response states, Boxill has "consistently been denied access to the database of her own emails" at the center of the charges.

"They just showed her [emails] that nobody could possibly remember -- it was 10 years old -- and she says, 'I don't know, it could be this, it might be that,'" Roden said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press.

"Well, they were satisfied. That's all they needed to know. She sent the email, they jumped to a conclusion based on what it says on the email about what happened and she's never [been] given a fair opportunity to explain what it really was."

The NCAA gives schools and individual parties named for violations 90 days to respond to charges outlined in a Notice of Allegations (NOA). That's often tougher for individuals compared to a school working with compliance staffers and outside attorneys.

"That creates somewhat of a double burden," said Stu Brown, an Atlanta-based attorney who has worked with schools on infractions cases. "It tends to necessitate the hiring of personal legal counsel and that can be extremely expensive when you think of just the number of documents and number of pages of things that have to be looked at just for somebody to get up to speed on the case."

Both UNC and Boxill filed responses Monday and released them publicly Tuesday. The NCAA enforcement staff has 60 days to respond, which would eventually lead to a hearing with an infractions committee panel.

Among its arguments, UNC stated its accreditation agency -- not the NCAA -- was the proper authority to handle issues related to irregular courses with significant athlete enrollments in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department.

As for Boxill, the NOA cited 18 incidents between February 2003 and July 2010, such as making changes for athletes to use in papers, suggesting a course grade and providing an athlete with a completed quiz for one of Boxill's courses.

The former philosophy professor and faculty chairwoman retired in 2015 after UNC began taking steps to fire her following a 2014 outside investigation that detailed the AFAM irregularities.

Roden said many of Boxill's charges are due to email exchanges taken out of context. He said they had since cobbled together more details by talking to former students involved and sifting through thousands of emails released publicly through records requests.

As an example, Roden said the quiz in question was a take-home assignment used to spur class discussion. A student emailed her answers to Boxill seeking help. Boxill spoke with her to explain the response didn't answer the posed question, and replied by email "change it or fill in as you wish" for the student to make her own changes, according to the response.

Asked about the complaints in Boxill's response, UNC athletics director Bubba Cunningham said Tuesday the school has been "very cooperative" with the NCAA and "anyone else who has asked."

"We've been open and transparent in everything that we have done," Cunningham said. "And I'll let her response speak for itself. But we've done everything we can, that we think is appropriate for the institution and those that we represent."

Roden said Boxill focused on helping students "be successful in life" and graduate, not stay eligible to compete.

"She's 77 years old. She's not going to work for another NCAA-regulated institution," Roden said. "So there's nothing they can do to her. This is about trying to clear her name. That's why we're doing this."

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