After three-and-a-half years, the NCAA's inquiry into the University of North Carolina is over.
The investigation was reopened in 2014 after an inquiry into the football program during the years prior, and was centered on courses in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies that were filled with athletes and required little-to-no attendance and work to receive high grades.
UNC faced five Level I violations, the highest level the organization can hand down.
Moments ago, the NCAA Committee on Infractions released its findings on the case, and it appears that the school got off virtually unscathed.
A Division I Committee on Infractions hearing panel could not conclude that the University of North Carolina violated NCAA academic rules when it made available deficient Department of African and Afro-American Studies “paper courses” to the general student body, including student-athletes.
The panel found two violations in this case – the former department chair and a former curriculum secretary failed to cooperate during the investigation.
“While student-athletes likely benefited from the so-called ‘paper courses’ offered by North Carolina, the information available in the record did not establish that the courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes,” said Greg Sankey, the panel’s chief hearing officer and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. “The panel is troubled by the university’s shifting positions about whether academic fraud occurred on its campus and the credibility of the Cadwalader report, which it distanced itself from after initially supporting the findings. However, NCAA policy is clear. The NCAA defers to its member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred and, ultimately, the panel is bound to making decisions within the rules set by the membership.”
Essentially, while the paper courses existed, and a large percentage of those enrolled were athletes, the NCAA could not prove that the school directed athletes to those courses.
“While student-athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body,” said Sankey. “Additionally, the record did not establish that the university created and offered the courses as part of a systemic effort to benefit only student-athletes.”
As it stands, the only violations found were against the former department chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and a curriculum secretary. UNC's programs look to be in the clear.