Amid a long-running NCAA investigation at North Carolina some have surmised that the women’s basketball program has become a scapegoat – that the NCAA might more harshly penalize that program while going easier on other teams, including men’s basketball.
But Sylvia Hatchell, the UNC women’s basketball coach, doesn’t see it that way. Instead, she sees no allegations against her program, and on Wednesday during an appearance at the Raleigh Sports Club, she questioned why it would be subject to any NCAA-mandated sanctions.
“There are no allegations against the women’s basketball program,” Hatchell said during a brief session with reporters. “It’s against the academic counselors that were counseling the players. But there’s no allegations against any of the coaches or any recruiting or anything with the program.
“So if there’s no allegations, how can there be penalties without allegations?”
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The NCAA last May sent UNC a Notice of Allegations (NOA) that charges the university with five violations. One of the NCAA’s allegations is specifically against Jan Boxill, the former women’s basketball academic counselor.
NCAA investigators concluded that Boxill, who was also a philosophy instructor and the director of the university’s Parr Center for Ethics, “knowingly provided extra benefits in the form of impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball student-athletes.”
Yet despite that allegation, Hatchell maintains there are no allegations against her program.
“The academic people handled everything,” Hatchell said. “I just happen to be the coach of the players. But I really don’t know anything else about it. But there were several sports involved.
“But I really don’t know anything else to say about it. But I just coach the team and I just trust that the right thing will be done and happen.”
There are no allegations against the women’s basketball program. It’s against the academic counselors that were counseling the players. But there’s no allegations against any of the coaches or any recruiting or anything with the program. So if there’s no allegations, how can there be penalties without allegations?
There is no end in sight, though, to an NCAA investigation into the long-running scheme of bogus African Studies classes that over 18 years benefited a disproportionate number of athletes, many of them football and men’s and women’s basketball players. The case is still several months, at least, from going before the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which is the NCAA’s ruling body.
Before that happens UNC would need to receive an amended NOA, after which UNC would have another 90 days to respond to it. The university has been waiting to receive its amended NOA since August, when UNC provided more details of potential violations to the NCAA.
UNC submitted that new information four days before its response to the original NOA was due, after the university discovered additional evidence of improper academic assistance in women’s basketball. At the time Bubba Cunningham, the UNC athletic director, described the potential violations as “more of the same of what we’ve seen in the past.”
Hatchell on Wednesday described the investigation as “a total academic situation.” She said she hasn’t had any communication with Boxill, who no longer works at UNC, and Hatchell tried to distance herself and her assistant coaches from the case.
“The academic counselors are under the College of Arts of Sciences … they were advisers for our players,” Hatchell said. “And there’s no coaches involved or mentioned in there. But if you look at the allegations they’re academic. So that’s all I know, because we’ve had no involvement with it at all.”
Hatchell spoke for about 40 minutes in front of the Raleigh Sports Club and detailed her return to coaching after missing the 2013-14 season while undergoing treatment for leukemia. Her team’s 72-56 victory against Clemson on Sunday was her 700th victory at UNC.
This season has been among her most challenging, though. Amid the uncertainty surrounding the future of her program, several of her best players transferred after last season. Every member of the four-player 2013 recruiting class, regarded as the best in school history, has left the program.
The departures have left Hatchell with seven scholarship players. Yet her team has won 11 of its first 16 games, and she has remained optimistic amid the perception that her program is more likely than others to endure potentially crippling NCAA sanctions.
“The academic allegations were back (when) my players that I have now, they were 8 and 9, 10-years-old,” Hatchell said. “So most people have no clue about any of this stuff. I read the reports and I’m like, ‘That’s news to me.’
“And sometimes there’s people’s names that are mentioned that I don’t even know who they are. But again, I think everybody is just waiting to see and that’s all we can do.”