UNC Grad School Pushed to Take Players

Dan Kane, Charlotte Observer, March 1, 2015

Michael Waddell had a low grade point average, no entrance exam score and was months past the deadline when an athletic official sought to have the football player admitted to UNC’s graduate school in fall 2003.

John Blanchard, then a senior associate athletic director, made the request after classes began, on Sept. 5, just as Waddell was about to be declared ineligible to play against Syracuse the following day, according to records obtained by The News & Observer.

The plea to admit Waddell went up to UNC’s provost, Robert Shelton. Email correspondence indicates Shelton saw no policy that would allow Waddell to enroll, but instead of telling him no, Shelton left it up to Linda Dykstra, the graduate school dean.

Dykstra admitted Waddell, who had already played in the season opener at Florida State. He would play against Syracuse and all but one of the other nine remaining games that season.

Waddell is one of several athletes UNC athletics officials sought to keep eligible to play by getting them into graduate school, according to Cheryl Thomas, the graduate school’s admissions director from 2002 to 2010. Thomas, 51, who no longer works in higher education, supplied documentation about Waddell to The N&O after first sending it to the NCAA and the agency that accredits the university.

Waddell, a cornerback and kick returner, would go on to have his fourth year of eligibility at UNC as a graduate student and attract the interest of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, who drafted him in the fourth round. But as a graduate student, Waddell skipped classes and exams, flunking out with four F’s, university correspondence shows.

Thomas told her superiors that Waddell should not be admitted and that officials at the Exercise and Sports Science Department knew he was not there to legitimately pursue a course of study.

“They know he has not applied and would not meet the minimum requirements for admission, yet the EXSS is willing to accept him as a non-degree seeking, one semester only, graduate student so his football eligibility will continue, if the (graduate school) will allow it,” Thomas wrote.

In an interview, Thomas said that roughly once a year during her eight years as admissions director, someone from the athletics department or the UNC administration would contact her with a request to find a place for an athlete. The last she received involved Justin Knox, a basketball player who had graduated from the University of Alabama in 2010 but still had one more season of eligibility.


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.

Pressure from athletics

Thomas’ assertions, bolstered by the correspondence in Waddell’s case, could raise new issues for a university already struggling with what is believed to be the biggest academic scandal in NCAA history. The troubles within the African studies department involved fake classes that brought high grades for little work and were hatched after pressure from counselors in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes.


Some athletes who have graduated have a fourth year of athletic eligibility left because they were held out of competition–called redshirting–for a year to recover from an injury or improve in practice.

Waddell, however, had been required to sit out his freshman year because his standardized test score and high school grade point average made him a “partial qualifier” by NCAA standards, according to a 2003 N&O story. That meant he would have only three years of eligibility as an undergraduate but could gain a fourth by entering grad school.

Waddell’s correspondence shows he and an athletics official used the graduate school to keep him eligible to play after he learned he couldn’t continue taking undergraduate classes after graduating with an African studies degree in summer 2003. It is unclear whether Waddell took any of the fake classes offered during that time, but the 2003 N&O story notes him taking an “independent study” AFAM class that summer.


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  • Race Heretic

    This is the same UNC, I’m guessing where a student’s term paper for a three credit class, consisted of four or five sentences about Rosa Parks? They got an A or a B on the paper, I believe, and it was the only requirement for the course – no attendance or anything.

    But yes, this is ridiculous. Genuinely talented athletes, many of them black, who have little interest or ability in actual educational achievement, are safeguarded through school without learning a thing so that they can be underpaid mercenaries, fighting valiantly on behalf of a school that they’re not really attending, so that the NCAA can rake in huge sums of money. It’s disgusting.

    Schools should be schools, and student-athletes should actually be students. If the school wants to have a semi-professional sports team nearby that bears its name – sounds fine to me, but stop passing off these intellectually vapid young men as university students.

    • newscomments70

      You are right, but no one will ever listen. The “student atheletes'” academic performance will be ignored, as well as rape allegations.

    • GeneticsareDestiny

      Yes, it’s that university. He got an A- on the paper Here it is for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.

      • Reynardine

        Still a better love story than Twilight.

      • LexiconD1

        Has to be fake. He spelled ‘you’re’ correctly.

        • Reynardine

          It’s amazing these days what Microsoft Word autocorrects.

          • Sick of it

            It’s amazing how often it attempts to correct things which are spelled correctly or are grammatically correct. Must be Indian English.

        • GeneticsareDestiny

          He used the wrong version of “their” in the second sentence, though.

          • LexiconD1

            They’re, their, there
            to, two, too
            Then, than
            American, American’s, Americans
            among a few others, are most often the bane of those who don’t understand “English grammar” (both of which are often, in and of themselves, written incorrectly.)

          • Nancy

            English itself is a difficult language to learn, because it’s a phonetically-based language in which only about 85% of any “spelling rule” actually applies. If we used a symbols-based system, like Mandarin or Japanese, there wouldn’t be so many dyslexics.

          • My wife learned English quite well. She also thinks Japan should switch completely to Romaji – the Roman alphabet. There have been various attempts at this, and the modified Hepburn system probably works the best.

            English is the easiest language in the world to learn to speak poorly, but writing it well can sometimes be a bit of trouble.

            Sayaka also now drives like a middle-aged white guy: one of my better accomplishments. It has been suggested that one should not ever try teaching one’s own wife to drive, but fighting out my federal case from behind bars for 17 months and then doing another 19 in the can left me with an enormity of patience. We borrowed a friend’s car with an automatic transmission so she could get the basics right before learning to drive a stick-shift. She loves driving with a manual transmission now. One can put a vehicle in neutral and coast downhill; even she now calls that “Mexican overdrive”. She knows her Saturn well enough that at proper speeds and engine RPM’s she can shift gears without using the clutch, the way I do.

            She doesn’t write as well as I, but at various times in my life, there has been nothing else I could afford, so I became fairly good at it.

            To my mind, language is a wonderful thing, as like many endeavors, it separates the wheat from the chaff.

          • newscomments70

            I studied Japanese for a semester at a UC. It was intense, but not impossible. It is complex and impossible to “fake”. As a linguist, I found it fascinating. I wish I had time to continue. The average IQ in that class was fairly high. Average or poor students wouldn’t bother learning this language. I respectfully disagree with your wife that Japan should adopt Romanji. Stick with Kanji, hiragana and katakana. It keeps the rif raf out of Japan!

          • evilsandmich

            I’m surprised hiragana hasn’t taken over Japan more. Who would keep those hieroglyphics around when they have a phonetic system that everyone knows?

          • LexiconD1

            Really? Then how come so many legal immigrants of the past, such as my grandparents (one side from Greece, the other Norway/Germany in the last century), learned to not only speak it, but read and write it within a few years, typically? But, blacks, and ‘hispanics,’ can’t seem to grasp it, even if they are born, as well as ‘educated,’ here?

            For the record, my son is dyslexic, his grammar isn’t poor because of it.

          • MikeofAges

            Please. Put some science behind your thesis. I have considered the idea that the use of a written language based on word or symbol recognition rather than a phonetic alphabet is major factor in the differences between cultures. English phonetics are, in a word, “messed” for the lack of consistent letter values, say, as compared to the extreme consistency of Spanish..

            I can only speak for myself, but I was taught to read in the Chicago Public Schools in the 1950s by the “whole word” or word recognition method, with only limited amount of phonics that I can remember. I believe that I actually was taught to be dyslexic and had my mental stability seriously undermined in other ways as well. Only when I studied Spanish in mid-life did I get a good handle on these issues. Sadly, I connected to the Hispanic world much to late to get good hookup out of it. My estimation is, those gentrified Hispanic females in California are the most sassy-sexy eligible young women the world has ever seen, and born for domestic life. This might be a strange place to say that, but that is what I think.

            Just recently, I picked up a book on how to learn Arabic. Arabic is written in a phonetic alphabet, but the Arabic alphabet has complications that do not exist in the Roman alphabet. That makes me think, maybe most Arabic speakers read based on word recognition rather than phonics. That might have something to do with what they are like.

            You do know, Mandarin and Japanese characters are ideographic, and may not exactly represent the language as spoken. That means that there might be a great divide between the written and spoken languages, far more than anything we have experienced. Might be, because I am not sure whatsoever.

            What I have said here represents speculation and my interpretation of my own experience. But at least I present an argument. What is your case, beyond your assertions? Or are you just inventing something to support your social snobbery and elitist cultural biases?

          • evilsandmich

            It’s not all great. Since the writing system isn’t phonetic the Chinese in particular are ‘bad’ about using completely different words for the same symbols. It may read the same everywhere, but they may not understand each other all that well (if at all) when they speak it.

          • Expecting proper spelling and grammar out of black diversitards and brown incompetoids is a “microaggression”. Whatever one of those is, it is apparently bad.

        • WR_the_realist

          Well, he said “there seats” instead of “their seats” and and “Her and the bus driver” instead of “She and the bus driver” so I guess it’s ungrammatical enough to be believable.

          • Yancy Derringer

            Gotta love “On the evening of December Rosa Parks…”

        • listenupbub

          That’s what I was thinking. This paper is too good to be really his.

    • Blackfish

      Yes, but there is just too much money to be made in big time college athletics for schools to turn back now. They are like crack addicts at this point.

  • “You can’t turn down thousands of people and say yes to one just so he can play basketball,” she said.

    Well why not? It happens with undergraduate admissions all the time.

    The point remains: You can either have championship football and men’s basketball teams, or you can have academic standards, but you can’t have both.

    • Sick of it

      It’s true. My alma mater doesn’t make it anywhere in college football, but we have academic standards.

  • phorning

    This happens frequently in college football. They are enrolled in grad school for the fall semester of their last year of football eligibility. It is safe to assume most do little to know course work and then they drop out when the season ends or don’t bother enrolling in classes second semester.

    • A “different area” of academic study? The Basketballistanis don’t study anything other than gang-rape.

      • phorning

        Yes, it is a loophole the NCAA is letting them exploit to avoid the rule requiring a transfer player to sit out a year in between schools. The “student athlete” chooses a major at his new school that wasn’t offered at his old one and claims he is transferring for that reason. Everyone involved knows this excuse is as legitimate as the African American Studies department at North Carolina, but they allow it to happen anyway.

  • superlloyd

    Black bakkabawl and feetzball privilege.

  • JohnEngelman

    Allowing unqualified college athletes to play is a victimless crime. Few people care very much. The only thing anyone can do is to keep drawing attention to the fraud of collegiate sports.

    • GeneticsareDestiny

      It’s not entirely victimless. Those unqualified student athletes take spots in universities that could (and should) be going to actual students. They also bring various forms of crime to the campus, including rape and theft.

      But you’re right that few people care. I wish it were not so. This is an important issue.

      • Weisheit77

        They’ve been taught to ignore blacks’ failings elsewhere. Why should they notice the illiterate college student and find it out of the ordinary?

        This one hits close to home because I come from college educated Southern people. All they have is college sports and church and I don’t like either.

    • Allowing these Porch Monkey-Americans to pretend to obtain college degrees devalues the work the rest of us did.

      “I be duh afawete, gnome sayin? I gots game, dawg. I be representin. You best recognize!” is not professional material.

    • InAFreeCountry

      The victim is the white guy who has a great grasp on academics and basketball fundamentals, but just can’t dunk de ball. He does not get a scholarship or a place on the team because of this b-ball affirmative action.

  • dd121

    And they don’t have lower or non existent standards/set aside so blacks can play sports. Pleeeeeese.

  • MikeofAges

    Athletic eligibility for graduate students is legitimate, if the person is by some measure qualified to work toward a graduate degree. Students should be able to work toward graduation, however. That mean C’s for undergraduates and B’s for graduate studentsw. That shouldn’t be too hard with the number of less-than-challenging subjects available to major in. If a student-athlete can’t be projected as an adequate student at a particular institution, that person belong at a different institution. Or not in school at all. I don’t think my model makes things too hard. If a student comes in needing remedial work, then they will have to progress from it into normal work and then progress in that. Those that say the institutions profit from the athletes are absolutely right. Athletics puts an institution on the map. It bring back the alums and get the pledges signed. Just think about what the University of Maryland and Rutgers University are gaining by joining the Big Ten. Billions in grants and research contracts. Credibility equal to Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

  • John Smith

    Graduate school? They don’t even belong there at the undergrad level.

    • Anglokraut

      If public schools were actually teaching, instead of babysitting, these Negroes would be booted out after the 8th grade, and sent to a trade school.

      • bv

        They can’t even handle manual labor so forget it.

    • meanqueen

      They don’t even belong in junior high.

      • Especially not at the age of 25.

      • John Smith

        Let’s just regress to the point of origin and say that they just don’t belong in this country.

    • Yancy Derringer

      What you mean? I am Dr. Waddell. I have a pHd. in Exercise. I no how to Exercise good. Thanks to Roses Parks.

  • Weisheit77

    African Studies… Playing ball, smoking weed, and having sex while nursing a hefty case of resentment, in other words.

    Edit: This is why I refuse to watch any college sports. I cannot participate in the lie.

  • Anglokraut

    Strip UNC of its accreditation, and have its degrees flagged as needing “further processing”, just as Western countries have to review any degree issued by a sub-Saharan university. A degree from UNC should hold as much weight as any sister university in Nigeria.

    • listenupbub

      I have to take issue with this. Many of the students at UNC work extremely hard for their degrees. This university is considered a “public ivy.” It has excellent research and a pretty talented student body.

      • Anglokraut

        When those students start holding Columbia-style sit-ins around the campus, blocking access to the athletic center AND Humanities building, demanding an immediate cease-and-desist on UNC athletics for systemic corruption and academic fraud, then perhaps I’d reconsider my position. Until that happens, that entire school operates under a cloud of shared guilt.

        • listenupbub

          These students don’t give a flip about the stupid degenerates in the fake athletic program, and neither do I.

          This school is extremely competitive, too, and the students can not waste tons of time on shenanigans like protests. Maybe you could get a few dozen to do it. The rest are trying to stay on top.

  • IstvanIN

    Universities should be about education and research first, sports second. I am not anti-sports, I believe sports are great activities for young people, but it should an adjunct to education, not the primary purpose. For pity sakes just give up the scholar athlete and make them paid employees.

    • As Ernest Hemingway once explained, there are few real sports. Any time one has to keep score, it’s just a game, and not really a sport.

  • listenupbub

    What really sucks is that every year, there will certainly be a few AFAM majors who are trying to go to medical or law school. They will barely scrape up the prerequisites, and with their fake GPA, they will get in over a serious white biochemistry major.

    People who think affirmative action at uni ends at admission couldn’t be more wrong. White guilt stops at nothing.

  • listenupbub

    And you know that all those UNC students are hamstering away about how this is somehow a distant effect of white privilege.

  • Dan B. Cooper

    Boycott Fox News

    • “Faux News”.

    • Alexandra1973

      I already have. Long time ago. I trust not a one of these news outlets.

      • evilsandmich

        They’re there for entertainment, and news isn’t supposed to be entertaining so it just ends up being insulting to those who are paying attention.

  • meanqueen

    This is my alma mater. I could tell you (true) stories about the concessions constantly being made to dumb black athletes, because so many people there literally define themselves primarily as “Tar Heels” and nothing is more important than having a winning ball team. I am proud to say that I never attended a single game. There were classes in several departments that were created specifically with dumb black athletes in mind. One was in the math department, because these athletes cannot pass a college level math course. It was called “Theory of Math” and I know something about it because I was in it, though in my case, I still had to go on to take a real math class or two in order to get my degree. It was a fun and interesting class, completely easy though, not college level content. Even though this class was created specifically for them, there was very poor attendance by the athletes and at test time, the poor buggers fidgeted in their seats and needed a lot of questions answered before they could do their test. I witnessed a big football player ripping pages out of a book in the library because he was too lazy and stupid to go photocopy them. If WN ever gets any traction in society, I really hope the dumb black athlete “goin’ ta skoo at the State U” phenomenon will come to an end.

    • evilsandmich

      You say he was in the library? Sure he wasn’t ripping naughty pictures out of some encyclopedia?

  • Sloppo

    I’m surprised that they were able to entice him away from all the employers in the business world who are aggressively seeking graduates with African studies degrees.

  • I assume the “Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes” is the office that produces the papers and exam keys for these young scholars. Americans are obsessed with college sports, whether white or black.

    • Sloppo

      I have a child who is being recruited to play a college sport (softball) and I think it could be a pretty good thing for her since she enjoys it and it can pay for a lot of her educational expenses. I’ve noticed that the smaller schools seem to have a better deal because the largest schools expect the athletes to put sports ahead of studies and they actually want the kids to major in easy relatively useless stuff to allow for more practice time. What good is a “full ride” to a major university if your major is Art History?

      • I had to take an art history class as an undergrad, and quite liked it. We called it “Darkness at Noon” because of all the slide shows, but it was great. I can’t imagine majoring in something like that, but it was a fun class. My offbeat sense of humor really showed in my term papers. My project was the design for my own cenotaph, for a peace I suspected – and now completely understand – that I will never know in life.

        • Blackfish

          I enjoyed Art History class as well. Lots of cute girls!

          The athletes enrolled in Sociology-Political Trends in Italian Film, where students watched Italian movies in a large lecture hall. Some even brought popcorn!

      • meanqueen

        Art History is a legitimate field of study, but maybe you just meant you disapprove because it’s not practical (unless she is planning to marry a blue blood – then it’s useful). Now, getting a degree in Women’s Studies – that would be useless all around.

        • Sloppo

          It’s legitimate field of study I suppose, but I try to encourage my children to study things which will be important when the system collapses.

          • meanqueen


  • All this emphasis on black athletes, and then they wonder why campus rape rates are so high.

  • Hammerheart

    Your college education is only as good as its football team.

    Higher education doesn’t deserve to exist.

  • At this point, UNC is really just admitting that it is a professional sports franchise which happens to inconveniently have a university attached to it.