According to businessweek.com:
The University of North Carolina on Wednesday admitted its academic-fraud-for-athletes scandal was worse than the public has previously been told. That’s saying something. After all, the practice at Chapel Hill of steering football and basketball players into fake classes had already made North Carolina the epicenter of a national debate about the corrupting effects of the $16 billion college athletics industry.
Several considerations regarding this widespread
1. The deceit was widespread and aimed at keeping athletes eligible. For years, UNC officials have resisted the obvious indications that academics were compromised to promote sports. That resistance has finally collapsed. The latest in a series of university-sponsored investigations revealed that over 18 years—from 1993 through 2011—some 3,100 students took “paper classes” with no faculty oversight and no actual class attendance. Almost half the students enrolled in the phony courses were athletes. Many of the basketball and football players “were directed to the classes by academic counselors” assigned to advise athletes, UNC said in a written statement. “These counselors saw the paper classes and the artificially high grades they yielded as key to helping some student-athletes remain eligible.”
In other words, to keep members of UNC’s top-rated basketball team on the court, professional “counselors” encouraged flat-out academic fraud.