John Swofford addresses concerns about Greg Sankey, UNC case

Commissioner John Swofford speaks to the media during the Atlantic Coast Conference men's NCAA basketball media day in Charlotte on Oct. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Commissioner John Swofford speaks to the media during the Atlantic Coast Conference men's NCAA basketball media day in Charlotte on Oct. 28, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton) AP

Responding to a question about conflict-of-interest concerns in North Carolina’s ongoing NCAA investigation, ACC Commissioner John Swofford said on Thursday that peer review has been part of the NCAA’s investigative process for “a long, long time.”

“I think forever,” Swofford said, speaking at the conclusion of the ACC’s annual spring meetings. “I’ve been around a long time, but not that long.”

Swofford acknowledged that the ACC is closely following the NCAA investigation at UNC, which responded on Tuesday to the NCAA’s third Notice of Allegations in the case. UNC received that notice after Greg Sankey, the chairman of the NCAA Committee on Infractions, encouraged the NCAA Enforcement Staff to evaluate whether the second NOA properly addressed the case.

In addition to his role as the infractions committee chairman, Sankey is also the commissioner of the SEC, the ACC’s primary rival conference. In a letter last month, the attorney for Deborah Crowder, one of the central figures in the case, called for Sankey to recuse himself from his role as the chairman of the infractions committee.

Sankey in a subsequent letter refused that request, and wrote that the committee “would fairly decide this case.”

This isn’t the first time during his tenure as ACC commissioner that Swofford has heard about conflict-of-interest concerns regarding the chairman of the infractions committee. It also happened when Miami joined the ACC in 2004. Back then Paul Dee, then Miami’s athletic director, served as the infractions committee chairman.

“I can remember having conversations with him about how uncomfortable that was, at times,” Swofford said. “So it’s not any different now than it’s been. Whether that should be changed in some way actually has been under discussion for a while, multiple years.

“So until someone comes up with a better way to approach that kind of situation, we’ll see.”

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was extensively investigated by the NCAA for a system of fake classes taken by thousands of students, roughly half of them athletes, that spanned three decades.

Swofford declined to comment on any other potential concerns with the UNC investigation but, as he has in the past, he did criticize the length of the case. This part of the UNC investigation, which began as an offshoot from the UNC football investigation that concluded in 2012, began in 2014.

“My biggest complaint has consistently been how long these kinds of things take sometimes,” Swofford said. “And unfortunately we’ve had several that have fallen into not as long this one, but still lengthy. Because it would help a great deal all the way around if we can come up with a process that brought things to culmination more quickly.”

UNC officials are expected to appear at some point in August before the committee on infractions. That timeline, though, assumes that the case will not be beset by another delay, as it has been several times during the past two years.

North Carolina head coach Roy Williams talks about the allegations against UNC during press conference Sunday, April 2, 2017, before the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Championship national championship game at the University of Phoenix Stadium

Andrew Carter: 919-829-8944, @_andrewcarter