Four days before its deadline to respond to the NCAA’s notice of allegations, UNC-Chapel Hill on Friday announced that it had supplied the NCAA with details of additional violations that could delay by several months the conclusion of a long-running infractions case.
UNC on Aug. 10 submitted to the NCAA details of potential improper academic assistance in women’s basketball and recruiting violations in men’s soccer. The timeline of the case has now been pushed back and likely won’t conclude until April 2016 at the earliest.
“I know today’s announcement will cause some to ask when all of this will end,” Bubba Cunningham, the UNC athletic director, said in a statement the university released early Friday afternoon.
Cunningham later spoke with reporters on a teleconference in which he detailed how UNC uncovered the new violations. The potential violations in women’s basketball, he said, were consistent with the kind identified in the notice of allegations that UNC received in May.
The second allegation in the NOA focused on Jan Boxill, a former professor and women’s basketball academic counselor. The NCAA Enforcement Staff alleged Boxill knowingly provided extra benefits in the form of impermissible academic help and special arrangements to women’s basketball players.
Cunningham described the potential women’s basketball violations that UNC recently uncovered as “more of the same of what we’ve seen in the past.” He said, though, that it wasn’t “a significant number” of women’s basketball players who received improper academic assistance.
University officials discovered the potential violations, Cunningham said, while preparing for the public release of documents related to the NCAA investigation. Officials uncovered documents that were similar to those in the report that Kenneth Wainstein released last October.
Wainstein is the former federal prosecutor UNC hired to investigate the origin and depth of no-show AFAM classes that he found spanned 18 years and involved 3,100 students – almost half of them athletes.
“And when we saw it,” Cunningham said of evidence suggesting additional violations involving Boxill and women’s basketball players, “we presented that to the NCAA.”
The potential men’s soccer recruiting violations that UNC uncovered, meanwhile, are unrelated to the AFAM case. Even so, their discovery could lead to a significant delay in the conclusion of the case if the NCAA concludes that they are Level I or Level II violations.
If the NCAA deems the violations to rise to that level, then it would submit to UNC an amended NOA. In that case, UNC would receive another 90 days – its original 90-day window was set to end on Aug. 18 – to respond.
“I’m very disappointed in the timing,” Cunningham said. “I’m very disappointed (in) the impact it’s going to have on the institution, the program and how it delays where we were. But I’m proud of the fact that people owned the mistakes when it happened.”
Cunningham said the university discovered the men’s soccer recruiting violations – which spanned the past two years – after one of the team’s coaches failed to correctly answer a question on a compliance test. That moment, Cunningham said, was when UNC “realized the coaches misunderstood the rules, and created some violations.”
The shifting timeline of the case all but assures that UNC’s men’s basketball team will not be affected by sanctions – such as a potential postseason ban – during the 2015-16 season. Still, though, the uncertainty that has negatively affected recruiting will continue to hang over the program until the case reaches a resolution.
Before Friday, there had been no indication of a potential delay in the case. UNC appeared prepared to respond to the NOA by Tuesday.
The Daily Tar Heel, the UNC student newspaper, reported that Cunningham on Thursday met with members of the university’s Faculty Athletics Committee and spoke of UNC’s upcoming response to the NOA. He didn’t mention that UNC had submitted new information to the NCAA.
Asked why he hadn’t, Cunningham said he didn’t receive word until Friday morning that the NCAA Committee on Infractions would allow the Enforcement Staff and UNC to review the newly uncovered information. The review means UNC’s response to the NOA has been postponed indefinitely.
Until Friday, it appeared likely that the case would conclude sometime early in 2016, perhaps in February if it followed the same timeline as UNC’s previous NCAA investigation that ended in 2012. Now, though, the case could endure through the summer of 2016.
Cunningham said he was “unsure” of when UNC might now appear before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions, which will ultimately determine the university’s penalties. If UNC had responded to the NOA on Tuesday, it could have appeared before the committee as early as October.
Like everything else with the case, though, the timeline for that appearance has been pushed back.
“But I’m still hopeful,” Cunningham said, “that we can get through this portion of the investigation, receive the amended notice if that is what is required and still bring this to closure by the spring of ’16.”