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Investigators meet with woman at center of UNC probe

Gonzaga v North Carolina

GLENDALE, AZ - APRIL 03: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels questions the official against the Gonzaga Bulldogs during the 2017 NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship game at University of Phoenix Stadium on April 3, 2017 in Glendale, Arizona. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — A woman at the center of North Carolina’s multi-year academic scandal interviewed with NCAA investigators after previously declining to cooperate in the probe.

Raleigh attorney Elliot Abrams told The Associated Press on Wednesday night that his client — Deborah Crowder — met all day with investigators. Crowder is a retired office administrator in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department.

“She has never wavered in terms of what happened,” Abrams told the AP, “and I think she knew that this was a chance to actually tell her story, and she did a good job of doing that.”

UNC faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control, in the long-running probe centered on irregular AFAM courses featuring significant athlete enrollments.

The school was due in March to respond to the charges. But the case hit one of its many delays after Abrams wrote the NCAA to say that Crowder was willing to talk with investigators.

Crowder, who graded many of the papers in the problem classes, also filed an affidavit defending the courses’ quality. She said she didn’t create courses to provide special assistance for athletes while saying athletes and non-athletes received equal treatment.

NCAA spokeswoman Emily James and UNC spokesman Rick White didn’t immediately return emails for comment Wednesday night.

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey, the chief hearing officer for the infractions panel handling UNC’s case, wrote in a latter last month that Crowder’s interview should take place in time to allow his panel to hear the case in August.

UNC is due to respond to the latest charges by Tuesday.

The website was first to report that Crowder was interviewed.