It’s almost hard to find an NCAA team without sanctions or pending sanctions against them these days (I say, as Kyle lays a wreath at the foot of a St. Thomas of Villanova statue). But the University of North Carolina is still embroiled in an academic scandal that could mess with their future eligibility and even strip wins (and titles) from the team.
The charges against the school, which are purely academic, allowed athletes to take grade-school level courses so they would be able to keep their grades up and maintain eligibility. [Editor’s note: This is in stark contrast to the very difficult Sociology courses and Communications major at Villanova, the latter of which can be credited with an assist on this blog.] Or, as the NCAA put it, there were “academic irregularities in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies department as potential improper benefits by saying athletes received access to courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes.”
Here’s a brief breakdown:
“The list of charges include counselors providing “special arrangements” to athletes by working with AFAM faculty and staff, such as requesting course offerings or obtaining assignments for athletes, over a roughly nine-year period starting in 2002.
In charging a lack of institutional control, the NCAA said the school didn’t do enough to monitor the AFAM department or the academic support program for athletes. That allowed counselors to use the irregular courses to help keep at-risk athletes eligible, “particularly in the sports of football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball,” according to the notice.
All five charges are considered potential Level I violations, described by the NCAA as a “severe breach of conduct … An eight-month investigation conducted by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein stated that office administrator Deborah Crowder — not a faculty member — typically handed out assignments and high grades after only a scan of the work.”
The NCAA is expected to present a revised notice of allegations to UNC in about a month. In responding to the original notice last summer, the university noted it had discovered other issues the NCAA would need to examine and that has delayed the case to this point.
Many have wondered why the Tar Heels are competing in this NCAA Tournament, let alone appearing in Monday night’s title game against Villanova, given the existence of the case. The Tar Heels chose not to self-impose a postseason ban, and there always were two possible motives for this: believing it is wrong to punish current athletes for the sake of preserving future success; or expecting that the NCAA won’t hand down such a punishment so there’s no reason to choose a convenient time to serve it. Now we have an idea which it was.
Roy Williams is tired of talking about it and thinks the basketball program itself will not be hit with NCAA sanctions. If that were the case, the NCAA’s judicial system would, predictably, look like a total joke, considering how trigger happy they can be in doling out sanctions to schools that are not lucrative marketing arms for Nike.
A ruling should come sometime this spring/summer, and it’ll be interesting to see what that looks like if (something Kyle doesn’t even want to consider) North Carolina wins tonight. [Editor’s note: Oh don’t worry– I already know what it looks like when North Carolina beats Villanova in the NCAA Tournament through a thicket of NCAA violations. It looks like 2005. Looks like like this. Let’s do something different tonight.]