The NCAA Committee on Infractions announced Friday it could not find North Carolina violated NCAA rules involving years-long academic scandal involving athletes across multiple sports.
"The panel concluded that while student-athletes and athletics programs may have benefitted from utilizing the courses, the general student body also benefitted," a release from the NCAA said. "Based on both the information available in the record and North Carolina’s support of the courses that were offered as not violating its policies, the panel could not conclude that the university failed to monitor or lacked control over its athletics program."
The university faced five Level I charges from the NCAA, including lack of institutional control, in a case that grew as an offshoot of a probe launched in 2010 into the football program.
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The academic fraud allegations involved classes taken by athletes in the African and Afro-American studies department between 2002 and 2011 that helped many retain their eligibility. The irregularities are focused on independent study-style courses misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two while featuring significant athlete enrollments.
In its response to the case, North Carolina challenged the most serious and potentially damaging allegation, arguing that "inadequate academic oversight unrelated to the Department of Athletics" didn't constitute an issue within the NCAA's jurisdiction.
UNC Chancellor Folt admitted the courses failed to meet the university's expectations and standards but maintained that the courses did not violate its policies.
In a statement, Chancellor Folt said:
“We’ve been open and transparent in everything we’ve done. We believe we’ve done everything possible to correct and move on from previous academic irregularities. Our focus is on continuing to provide the best education to our students. We all believe Carolina is in a better place.”
Later Friday, UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham, men's basketball coach Roy Williams, football coach Larry Fedora and women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell issued statements:
“We are glad the case is over, and appreciate the time and effort the Committee members took in examining the complete record of this case. I want to thank Chancellor Folt and my colleagues in the administration and faculty, our student-athletes, coaches, staff, and our tremendous Carolina community for their support. Carolina Athletics is an important and meaningful part of campus life, and we look forward to continuing to fulfill our mission of inspiring and educating through athletics.”
“I want to thank Bubba Cunningham, Vince Ille and Chancellor Folt for their leadership throughout this process. I am glad that we will be able to put this behind us and move forward as a university and football program.”
“We’re just so excited to put this past us so we can concentrate on coaching these outstanding young ladies. I want to thank Chancellor Folt for her support and leadership. Everyone at the University, from Bubba Cunningham to the folks in compliance, worked together as a team to resolve this matter. Our basketball team is working hard in the preseason and we look forward to the start of the season.”
“We’re certainly thankful the case has been decided and this great University can move forward. We appreciate the hard work and effort from so many people in presenting the facts of the case to the Committee. I thank Chancellor Folt and Bubba (Cunningham) for their leadership. This is my alma mater and I love it deeply. We’ve all learned to be a better university from this case. Now we can focus completely on our mission of teaching and coaching our student-athletes and helping the university reach its dreams and goals.”
On Friday morning, Tarheel fans lined up outside the Dean E. Smith Center several hours early for "Late Night with Roy."
On Friday night, the UNC men's basketball team will hang it's 2017 National Championship banner.
"I'm feeling really good because I know it has definitely had a negative impact on recruiting," said Stephen Braswell. "The last couple years we have turned it around a little bit but I'm so glad that we can finally put it behind us and get back to concentrating on winning championships."
Brian Hurdle says he's excited that the focus can now shift back to athletics.
"We are just half to have all of this over with so we can get on and recruiting these great recruits coming in," said Hurdle. "Win national championships and ACC tournaments. The NCAA dragged their feet. I don't know why but it doesn't matter because here we are. We are done with that and let's move on."
Now that the investigation is over, Bobby Spikes says he's excited about what the future holds for the UNC program.
"With this being over, I feel like Carolina can get back to Carolina basketball again and get the top players like we always used to get and They don't have to worry about us being punished," said Spikes.
There were two violations cited by the NCAA.
The panel said a former department chair and a former secretary did not cooperate with the investigation.
But there are no penalties to the university associated with that.
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