CHAPEL HILL, N.C. The NCAA is reopening its investigation into academic improprieties at the University of North Carolina, the university announced on Monday.

UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in a written statement that the university had received a verbal notice of inquiry from the NCAA. A notice of inquiry is the first step in the NCAA's investigative process.

The NCAA's decision to reopen the UNC case comes more than two years after it closed an investigation into impermissible benefits and academic fraud in the UNC football program. That case, which ended in March 2012, resulted in a postseason ban and a loss of scholarships for the football team, among other penalties.

Since then, more questions have emerged about whether athletes benefited from fraudulent classes within UNC's African and Afro-American Department. UNC in the summer of 2012 announced the discovery of more than 50 "aberrant" AFAM courses, and a large number of athletes filled those courses and usually received high grades.

Typically, the suspect classes never met and only required an end-of-semester paper. A transcript belonging to Julius Peppers, the UNC All-American football player, showed he relied on several suspect AFAM courses to remain eligible during his time at UNC. Peppers' transcript had been posted on a publicly-accessible page on UNC's website.

Rashad McCants, a standout on UNC's 2005 national championship basketball team, recently told ESPN's "Outside the Lines" that he relied on no-show AFAM classes to remain eligible. McCants also alleged that tutors wrote his papers and that coach Roy Williams knew about the suspect AFAM classes.

Throughout the past two years, as more and more questions surrounded the no-show AFAM courses and whether they were designed to keep athletes eligible, the NCAA had shown no interest in reopening the UNC case. That changed, though, when it provided the university with a notice of inquiry.

The NCAA, Cunningham said in his statement, "has determined that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might now be willing to speak with the enforcement staff."

(c)2014 The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

Visit The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services