NCAA says North Carolina didn’t violate academic rules

North Carolina did not violate the NCAA’s academic rules with its course offerings and extra help to student-athletes, the NCAA announced Friday.

The NCAA Committee on Infractions, therefore, didn’t place any significant penalties on the university. North Carolina could have faced postseason bans, victories being wiped away and the potential loss of championships.

The NCAA investigation, which was launched in 2010 and re-opened in 2014, focused on student-athletes taking classes in the school’s African and Afro-American Studies department. The NCAA also had alleged that three North Carolina faculty members provided extra benefits in the form of academic assistance to student-athletes from 2002 to 2011.

The Tar Heels men’s basketball team won two NCAA championships in that span: 2005 and 2009.

“A Division I Committee on Infractions hearing panel could not conclude that the University of North Carolina violated NCAA academic rules when it made available deficient Department of African and Afro-American Studies ‘paper courses’ to the general student body, including student-athletes,” the report stated. “The panel found two violations in this case – the former department chair and a former curriculum secretary failed to cooperate during the investigation.”

According to The (Raleigh, N.C.) News & Observer, those two staff members were from the African Studies department.

“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,” said Greg Sankey, the panel’s chief hearing officer and commissioner of the SEC, in the report of the findings. “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.”

The fact that the courses benefited the general student population overall was a major consideration in the NCAA’s findings.

“While student-athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body,” Sankey said in the report. “Additionally, the record did not establish that the university created and offered the courses as part of a systemic effort to benefit only student-athletes.”

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