Monday afternoon’s release of a new notice of allegations that dropped an extensive impermissible benefits charge against UNC in the academic-athletic scandal drew an immediate and substantial debate about what the NCAA can do in academic misconduct cases.
I was surfing Twitter after the release, catching some of that debate for our story that day, when I saw a tweet from Jay Bilas, the former Duke basketball player who is now a college basketball analyst for ESPN.
“Easy and fraudulent are different. The UNC matter is an accreditation issue, not an NCAA issue,” Bilas tweeted at 4:14 p.m., shortly after the notice’s release.
In reporting it, I got the context wrong and mischaracterized Bilas’ views on the legitimacy of the classes at the heart of the scandal. I thought he was saying the classes were easy, not fake. I also fell short in reporting his position on what the NCAA can do about the fraudulent classes.
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In a series of tweets late Tuesday night and in a phone interview Wednesday morning, Bilas explained what I had gotten wrong.
He said the evidence from various reports and investigations that exposed a system of classes that never met and provided a high grade regardless of the quality of work was “academic fraud from the get-go.” But he said the NCAA’s rules do not give it the authority to make an infractions case out of the classes.
“What happened here was awful, you are not getting any argument from me,” Bilas said. “But the issue is, is this a question under NCAA rules of course legitimacy? And the NCAA doesn’t pass on those matters, so there’s nowhere for them to go on this.”
He compared the situation to a murder involving a college athletics program. That would be handled by law enforcement authorities, not the NCAA.
“We can say it’s a failing of the NCAA rules, they should do this or they should have contemplated this or the (college) presidents were mistaken in ... not allowing the NCAA to go into this area,” Bilas said. “But that’s what the rules say, and that’s all I’m saying.”
His view appears to be in line with the NCAA’s enforcement staff. They dropped an impermissible benefits charge that NCAA academic council members have said is a poor fit for academic cases because it was intended to cover things such as money, cars and other perks given to athletes. UNC still faces five serious charges, including a lack of institutional control.
The NCAA is expected to pass new rules that it says would better handle academic misconduct cases, but those rules would not come into play in the UNC case.