While Roy Williams and Larry Fedora and the rest of North Carolina's coaches wait for the university to release the NCAA's Notice of Allegations, they've taken some solace that there's an end in sight, finally, to a case that has dragged on.
“You hopefully get closer to the light at the end of the tunnel,” Williams said Tuesday at a charity event at Finley Golf Course near the UNC campus. “And that old saying – (you) hope it's not a freight train running over you.”
Williams and Fedora don't seem too afraid that it’s an oncoming train, at least. Appearing at the 27th annual Carolina Kids Classic, a charity golf tournament that this year raised $113,600 for the Ronald McDonald House of Chapel Hill, both Williams and Fedora sounded eager for the NOA to be released.
UNC received the Notice of Allegations on May 22. The document outlines the violations the NCAA says UNC committed amid a long-running scheme of bogus no-show African Studies classes that were disproportionately filled with athletes. UNC officials have not made the document public but said it will be released once it is amended to comply with privacy laws.
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“I mean, there's nobody – none of you guys, for sure,” Williams said to a small group of reporters, “(who) want to see it as much as I do.”
Williams and Fedora said Tuesday they hadn't seen or read the NOA. They said they hadn't been briefed on its contents, either, though Williams said he had “probably gotten a little more information than most people, but not much more.”
Given that they said they hadn't read the NOA, both Williams and Fedora hesitated to speak in specifics about what it contains. Fedora, though, said he didn't anticipate that the NCAA's findings would have any bearing on the UNC football program.
Fedora has maintained that stance for years, even after the NCAA a year ago reopened a case that originally focused solely on the football program. The earlier NCAA investigation focused on impermissible benefits and academic fraud within the football program, which was penalized in 2012 with a postseason ban and a loss of scholarships, among other sanctions.
The scope of this investigation has been much larger. The nature of the case – athletes and non-athletes taking no-show African Studies classes that required little to no work – has also made it difficult to predict what the NCAA might do, because such a case is unprecedented.
“We'll just have to wait and see,” Fedora said. “It's not something that I'm worried about. I don't really anticipate any problems (for football).”
Whether Williams' men's basketball program will be charged with NCAA violations, meanwhile, is perhaps the most significant question surrounding the NOA. Many of Williams' players were found to have taken the bogus African Studies courses, according to the investigation led by former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein.
But Wainstein's investigation also concluded that Williams and his staff committed no wrongdoing. Years after Williams became UNC's head coach in 2003, the men's basketball players' enrollments in the suspect courses dropped significantly. Still, he has faced criticism for what he knew – and what some say he should have known – about the classes his players were taking.
Williams on Tuesday spoke of the “cloud” that had been hanging over UNC and his team. He said the story had “been sensationalized way past what it might be.”
“It's felt like we've been accused of doing so many things that we knew we did not do, and know we did not do,” Williams said. “So I'll be glad to get that over with and get the allegations out there and then go through the whole process.”
In some ways, the unknown – the specter of the penalties the NCAA might levy, or even what charges are coming – has been harsher than almost any sanction UNC might face. Rival schools have used those unknowns against UNC in recruiting and some prospects – including Brandon Ingram, a heralded recruit who chose Duke – have said the NCAA investigation turned them away from UNC.
The university's athletic teams will not know what sanctions they will face, if any, for a while. UNC had 90 days from May 22 to respond to the NOA. After that, it still must appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which will decide what sanctions UNC will face.
Once it becomes public, though, the Notice of Allegations is expected to provide insight about which UNC teams face the greatest likelihood of enduring sanctions. Its release, which has been anticipated since the university announced the receipt of the document, is expected sooner than later.
Williams and Fedora on Tuesday sounded as eager as anyone is to read it.
“If it says I'm going to be charged with treason to the United States of America, I'm not going to feel very good about that,” Williams said. “But, again, I haven't seen it. But I do think, as I've said and said and said, that it's another step toward recovery, and it's another step in the process that we have to go through.”