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NCAA says UNC did not violate bylaws

Carol Folt in Nashville Hearing

UNC Chancellor Carol Folt walks into the meeting room for the NCAA allegation hearings at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Conference Center in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday morning.

Update, 3:30 p.m.: The UNC athletic department has released statements from athletic director Bubba Cunningham and three head coaches regarding the decision.

Cunningham: “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.”

Football head coach Larry Fedora: “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.”

Women’s basketball Head Coach Sylvia Hatchell: “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.”

Men’s basketball head coach Roy Williams: “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.”

Update, 1:35 p.m.: Chancellor Carol Folt has sent out an email to the University community informing them of the decision, calling it the "the correct — and fair — outcome." 

"I am grateful that this case has been decided and the University can continue to focus on delivering the best possible education to our students," Folt said. "We wish to thank the NCAA staff and the Committee on Infractions for their work and time during the joint investigation and hearing process."

After a years-long investigation and back-and-forth with the NCAA, the organization announced Friday that it could not determine UNC’s 'paper courses' constituted an NCAA violation. 

“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 Committee on Infractions panel’s chief hearing officer in a statement. 

Sankey said the panel was “troubled” by the University’s shifting opinions on whether the classes constituted academic fraud — but that NCAA policy defers this determination to member schools. 

The Committee on Infractions report said the University originally acknowledged what it say as “long-standing and egregious wrongdoing,” only to pivot during the infractions processes. 

“A singular principle allowed UNC room to make its claims and, ultimately, limits the panel’s ability to conclude that academic fraud occurred," the public infractions decision said. "Since 2014, the NCAA membership has acknowledged the question whether academic fraud occurred is one appropriately answered by institutions based on their own academic policies.” 

The NCAA panel could also not find that 'paper classes' benefited only student-athletes, as opposed to the entire student body. 

The only violation the committee saw was the lack of cooperation from a former department chair and a former secretary — and two breaches of confidentiality that will not be penalized. 

The parties that breached confidentiality, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham for taking a case-related interview and a former secretary and her counsel, both apologized at the hearing.

“Although troubled by these disclosures, the panel does not elevate the conduct to violations of NCAA legislation.” 

The NCAA will place a five-year ‘show-clause’ period, during which any NCAA member school that employs the former department chair “must show cause why he should not have restrictions on athletically related activity,” the NCAA statement said.

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