That surprise was evident in a conference call held Friday by SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, who headed the Committee on Infractions panel that delivered the ruling.
Sankey was asked how the NCAA came to its ruling, and he largely reiterated the content of the report released by the NCAA Friday morning: because the classes were made available to regular students as well as student-athletes, they did not count as an impermissible benefit.
It is up to the university, not the NCAA, to determine whether or not a class should count for credit, Sankey said.
Sankey said that it was “more likely than not” that student-athletes used the classes in question to maintain their eligibility and he said that the panel “is in no way supporting what happened.”
Sankey: “I think it’s important to understand the panel is in no way supporting what happened."
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) October 13, 2017
That led to this question, which was asked by Andrew Carter of the Raleigh News & Observer: What will keep other schools from doing the same thing in the future — creating bogus classes that benefit student-athletes but allowing a few non-athletes to take the class as well?
In response, Sankey pointed to the years-long investigation, which began in 2010 and was re-opened in 2014, saying he didn’t think other schools would “want to go through” what North Carolina went through.
Asked Sankey what's to stop any university from doing something similar: "I doubt any university wants to go through" what UNC did, he says.
— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) October 13, 2017
The investigation was a costly one for North Carolina. ESPN’s Darren Rovell reported that the schools spent more than $18 million in legal fees during the course of the investigation. Men’s basketball coach Roy Williams has also said on multiple occassions that the investigation hurt recruiting.
Yet, Williams’ team just won the school’s seventh national title.
Sankey made clear that the Committee on Infractions does not endorse the academic practices that were being investigated at North Carolina. What’s not clear is whether the NCAA’s ruling will keep other schools from participating in those very practices.