The accrediting agency made its ruling some time ago — and now the NCAA Committee on Infractions' decision marks the end of a very public, six-year process.
But the decision does not undermine the experiences of those who coached, played and studied with an investigation looming overhead.
“You’re happy that’s it’s over,” head football coach Larry Fedora said to reporters on Saturday. “But I mean, don’t think that we haven’t been penalized.”
Setting athletics aside, the academic integrity of the University was called into question by regulatory bodies. The status of alumni was made a matter of public discourse.
“I was more pissed that something I worked hard for was being questioned,” Jawad Williams, a member of UNC’s 2005 national championship men’s basketball team, said in a tweet. “My degree meant more to my family than the banner, that was extra.”
The lack of concrete or any sanctions assigned to the University has left some incredulous, frustrated the NCAA acknowledged academic improprieties but could not address them through adherence to its bylaws.
Gary Parrish, a CBS college basketball analyst, questioned the role of the NCAA after the COI dealt out its decision on the UNC case.
“If your system won't allow you to punish a school caught doing what UNC was doing, your system is broken,” Parrish said in a tweet.
Stewart Mandel, editor of The All-American, an online sports publication, expressed his bemusement at the infractions process. He cited a particular passage as demonstrating just how "low UNC was willing to go in its defense strategy."
“A secretary grading papers? Not a big deal," Mandel said in a tweet.
"I've been numb to the whole thing"
Among the reactions to the ruling, for some there was cautious relief.
The NCAA finding did not change the organization’s stance on what exactly had occurred at UNC during the period in question. But it did offer closure for those currently at UNC that they would no longer be waiting anxiously for the consequences of past transgressions.
"We're grateful for this resolution of a case about issues that ended more than six years ago," Chancellor Carol Folt said on a call with reporters on Friday.
Fedora said it's good to be found "innocent."
“I mean we don’t have to worry about that anymore," Fedora said. "We don’t have to defend ourselves anymore in recruiting.”
“I know you guys wants me to say that there is,” Fedora said. “But I’m just telling you, I’ve been numb to the whole thing for probably a couple of years. Because it was out of my hands, nothing I can do.”
The threat of potential sanctions kept the program wary, despite the fact that many players and coaches were not even at the University during the period of time that the NCAA investigated. One of the consequences of the shadow of the scandal was in recruiting.
“One school in particular, they were like, ‘You don’t want to play at a place where you’re not going to be able to play in any bowl games while you’re there,’” first-year running back Michael Carter said Saturday.
Carter spoke of the routine phone calls that UNC coaches made to ensure him of the positive direction of the program.
“When I was getting recruited, they reassured me that they had done nothing wrong,” Carter said. “And it proved to be true yesterday. I trust our coaching staff and I trust our guys no matter what anybody said.”
Members of the 2017 national championship men’s basketball team shared their feelings of vindication via social media.
Both Justin Jackson and Joel Berry II posted tweets capitalizing UNC’s “UNDISPUTED” status as seven-time national champions, now that the risk of the NCAA stripping the program of one of the titles won during the scandal has been lifted.
Theo Pinson, a current senior forward, shared his satisfaction with the timing of the finding ahead of UNC’s 2017 championship banner unveiling at Late Night with Roy Friday.
“Now can we lower our banner tonight in peace!!” Pinson tweeted.
Whether the finding resolved an ethical dilemma or represented the proper application of NCAA bylaws, Pinson’s reaction echoed that of many in the Tar Heel community. After years of twists and turns, the case against UNC finally fell flat Friday.
In the place of anxious waiting is peace — and a community and UNC administration that is ready to move on.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.