No significant penalties for UNC in NCAA’s long-awaited report on academic scandals

UNC-Chapel Hill on Friday morning received its long-awaited judgment from the NCAA Committee on Infractions, which “could not conclude academic violations” in the case, according to a statement the NCAA released along with its findings.

Therefore, the committee did not sanction the institution with any significant penalties. Approaching the release of the infractions committee’s report, the university and its supporters feared the worst: postseason bans, the vacation of victories and, potentially, championships.

There was none of that. The infractions committee ruled, essentially, that it couldn’t determine that violations occurred in association with a long-running scheme of African Studies courses, ones that UNC’s accrediting agency found lacked integrity.

The NCAA’s investigation had focused on how those classes, which existed for 18 years, benefited athletes. The NCAA built its case not on allegations of academic fraud, though, but of impermissible benefits – the alleged special access to the courses, and not the courses themselves, central to the NCAA’s case.

The only violations that the committee concluded in this case was that two former staff members in the African Studies Department – Julius Nyang’oro and Debby Crowder – failed to cooperate during the investigation.

“While student-athletes likely benefited from the so-called ‘paper courses’ offered by North Carolina, the information available in the record did not establish that the courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes,” Greg Sankey, the panel’s chief hearing officer and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, said in a statement.

“The panel is troubled by the university’s shifting positions about whether academic fraud occurred on its campus and the credibility of the Cadwalader report, which it distanced itself from after initially supporting the findings.

“However, NCAA policy is clear. The NCAA defers to its member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred and, ultimately, the panel is bound to making decisions within the rules set by the membership.”

This is a developing story.

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter