As unbelievable as it may sound, the North Carolina academic scandal may be moving towards a conclusion.
On Thursday, UNC released documents containing the school's response to the third separate NCAA Notice of Allegations.
From that release, via WRAL:
The question before the Panel is whether the record in this proceeding establishes violations of the member-adopted constitution and bylaws as alleged by the Enforcement Staff in the Second Amended Notice of Allegations (the “Second ANOA”). The public narrative for the last six years, popularized by media accounts, is that the Department of Athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (the “University”) took advantage of “fake classes” in the Department of African and African-American Studies (the “Department”) to keep student-athletes eligible. That narrative is wrong and contradicted by the facts in the record.
The crux of North Carolina's defense is that, while there were issues with the classes in question, they were of an academic nature, and UNC athletics did not take advantage of the situation in an inappropriate way, with regard to enrolling athletes in those courses. The school also accuses the NCAA of overreach in the case, as well as attempting to enforce rules that were not in place when UNC's issues began.
This history establishes that the facts asserted in Allegation 1 do not fit within any NCAA bylaw, case precedent, interpretation, official rules education or other authority. The Panel must acknowledge the limits of the bylaws and their lack of applicability in the same manner as the Staff previously concluded. The Panel should not apply new and novel standards to penalize the University based on rules that did not exist when the conduct in question took place.
Because the NCAA is notably inconsistent in enforcing its rules, especially with academics, it is incredibly hard to predict how it will come down on UNC. Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples believes that North Carolina has a strong defense set up, even in light of how widespread the scandal appears to be.
North Carolina’s attorneys have framed the case as well as they possibly could. The Wainstein Report and common sense suggest that athletes were shuttled into these easy classes to keep them eligible, but according to the bylaws involved here, the NCAA enforcement staff must prove either a conspiracy by North Carolina employees to offer fraudulent credit specifically for athletes or a scheme that allowed athletes to receive benefits other students didn’t get. The enforcement staff can’t prove the second because it isn’t true, so it will have to focus on the first. At least, that’s how things would work if the COI was a court of law. It is not. It doesn’t need proof beyond a shadow of a doubt. It doesn’t always follow precedent.
That’s what makes this case so difficult to predict. North Carolina has mounted a defense that has worked in the past, but with the association under pressure to do something about something, no one knows how the COI will respond.
The next step is for North Carolina to have its meeting with the Committee on Infractions. As of last month, that meeting is tentatively scheduled for August 16 and 17. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey heads up the COI.