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UNC’s response to allegations details NCAA procedural errors

Harvard v North Carolina

JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 19: Head coach Roy Williams of the North Carolina Tar Heels reacts on the bench against the Harvard Crimson during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on March 19, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

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The NCAA investigation into the academic fraud that occurred at North Carolina has gone on seemingly forever, but, according to the News & Observer, we may now know why it’s August of 2016 and a resolution appears to be months, if not years, away.

First, a quick timeline: North Carolina received their initial Notice of Allegations in the spring of 2015 and had a deadline of early August of the same year to respond. But that response never came. Instead, in April of 2016, the NCAA sent out an amended Notice of Allegations, and that new NoA was noticeably missing a number of things: Any mention of Roy Williams, any mention of the men’s basketball team and any mention of impermissible benefits; initially, the NCAA had ruled that academic advisors directing student-athletes into the bogus classes constituted an impermissible benefit. Knowledge of the fake classes was not known to the student body at-large, the thinking went, so enrollment in those classes was a benefit that was available to a normal UNC student.

You can make a fairly cogent argument that, by definition, that’s an impermissible benefit being provided by the athletic department.

Except, according to North Carolina’s response, the NCAA had already made a ruling on this.

(Again, props to Andrew Carter for picking up on something a lot of us missed.)

From the response the NCAA sent in to the NCAA on Monday and made public on Tuesday:

On March 5, 2013, the then Managing Director of the AMA responded to the enforcement staff in no uncertain terms. He wrote, “There are always concerns with aberrant classes comprised of a significant number of student-athletes in comparison with non-athletes; however, there is nothing definitive in the report [provided by the University] that would validate that there was a systematic effort within the African and African American Studies department motivated by the desire to assist student-athletes with maintaining their eligibility, either in how the courses were created, taught and/or how the grades awarded.” (See Exhibit JUR-5.) AMA’s conclusion confirmed that the NCAA itself had concluded that the anomalous courses and the other academic irregularities in the Department did not violate NCAA rules. (Emphasis added)

The report that the Director of the AMA is referencing is the Martin Report, which was such a train wreck that UNC had to commission the Wainstein Report, which is what provided the most damning evidence of UNC athletics targeting the fraudulent classes to keep kids eligible. What matters there, however, is that the AMA determined this “did not violate NCAA rules”.

The footnote to that blurb is even more interesting:

It is worth noting that the University discovered the exchanges related to the enforcement staff’s request and AMA’s response long after the fact, and purely by happenstance on July 13, 2015. Despite the fact that the enforcement staff had previously represented that the University’s outside counsel could access all materials relevant to the investigation via a secure website, these materials were not included, contrary to the requirements of Bylaw 19.5.9. They were discovered by the University only because its representatives traveled to the national office to review the physical files personally. (Emphasis added)

One of the major talking points after the release of UNC’s response was ‘Why?’ Why is North Carolina trying to play hardball with the NCAA? Why aren’t they self-imposing menial sanctions to try and appease ‘Mark Emmert and The Overlords’? Why is the tone of this response somewhere between “stick to sports” and “come at me, bro”?

That footnote may be the ‘Why’.

Because, the way this reads, UNC is essentially saying that the NCAA had determined in 2013 that no NCAA rules were broken then tried to hide that fact from the university, which is against their own bylaws.

That’s not a good look.