USC’s new president, Carol Folt, has previous experience with athletic scandals

first_img“Her support has been unyielding, and we appreciate all she has done for our student-athletes,” North Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham said in an interview with UNC’s University Gazette earlier this year. “Her dedication to our student-athlete experience and their success has been second to none.” Beginning in 1992, North Carolina offered “paper” classes in the university’s African and Afro-American Studies departments. Essentially, these classes based grades on essays alone, and rarely actually met. The classes were frequented by student-athletes, who rarely wrote their own papers and thus boosted their GPAs without ever stepping foot inside the classroom. Governor Jim Martin discovered these classes through an independent investigation in 2012. His findings reported that 216 of these “paper” classes were created over the course of two decades. However, Martin argued that the discretion fell on the academic department, not athletics, despite the fact that many of these courses were created at the insistence of academic advisors for the football team. Still, when a 2014 UNC investigation identified that over 3,000 students had taken these classes — over half of which consisted of student athletes — the NCAA started a formal investigation into the matter. Folt took on the chancellor position in the middle of this controversy in 2013. Besides firing four employees and disciplining five more, she formulated a broad set of reforms to attempt to prevent academic fraud as a whole on the UNC campus. In her first day on the job at USC, Folt made it clear that the student athlete experience will be remain one of her main focuses as she wades into her role as president. After attending a Duke vs. North Carolina basketball game during her initial visit of the school, Folt became a fast fan of the school’s teams and often appeared courtside to cheer on the Tar Heels. During her time, she made the student athlete experience a main focus in her approach to athletics as a whole. “When I was at UNC, the thing that impressed me the most was that the faculty came together and made 70 reforms,” Folt said to the Daily Trojan. “That was what was so wonderful. It wasn’t about eliminating athletics, it was about doing it right so that people could get what they needed and deserved.” Although Folt’s tenure saw a vast expansion of transparency and enforcement of integrity policies between the athletics and academic departments, she also helped the school avoid further sanctions. At the conclusion of its investigation in 2017, the NCAA announced that it “could not conclude that the University of North Carolina violated NCAA academic rules.” “I really believe college athletes can be a enriching and rewarding experience,” Folt said. “Student athletes [are] where I start. Who are they? Are we giving them what we need? Are they graduating with the skills they need… If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it right.” Regardless of her impact on the structure and integrity of the athletics department, Folt’s history at North Carolina hints that she could serve as a good luck charm for USC Athletics. In her five and a half years at Chapel Hill, the Tar Heels brought home 16 conference titles and four national championships across all of its sports, including the 2017 men’s basketball title. This decision was based on the argument made by UNC lawyers that while the school was guilty of academic fraud, this was an internal academic issue, not something that fell under the realm of NCAA jurisdiction. Over the course of the investigation, the school spent close to $18 million in legal and public relations costs to generate this positive result. Although the NCAA decision sparked considerable controversy, Folt’s ability to navigate NCAA scandals was one of the many reasons that she was unanimously selected. This is much-needed experience for USC, which is just starting to face the repercussions of the college admissions bribery case recently uncovered by the FBI. The athletics program is at a crossroads, after firing water polo head coach Jovan Vavic and senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel for accepting bribes to falsify admits as athletic recruits. Between the school’s upcoming internal investigation and an impending one from the NCAA, Folt will be in familiar territory when she takes on the challenge of USC Athletics. From racial controversy to Title IX discrimination, Folt tackled a litany of investigations and challenges in her nearly six years as the chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. But one of the new president’s most compelling experiences took place at the start of her tenure — a decades-long scheme that used academic fraud to benefit student athletes. During her five years as chancellor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USC President Carol Folt made reforms and dealt with investigations into a decades-long academic fraud scheme involving the athletics department. (Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons) Folt became the new chancellor only months after the discovery of the scheme, which involved thousands of students and dated back over a decade. Over her first four years, she led UNC through an NCAA investigation and a complete overhaul of the way its athletics department approached academic standards. Newly elected USC president Carol Folt is no stranger to scandal. Mia Speier and Sasha Urban contributed to this report.last_img