UNC gets new Notice of Allegations in NCAA academic case

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina has received a new document from the NCAA outlining violations connected to UNC’s long-running academic fraud scandal, a school athletics spokesman said.

Steve Kirschner said the new Notice of Allegations (NOA) arrived Monday morning, jumpstarting a case that has been stalled in a procedural limbo since August, including through the men’s basketball team’s run to the men’s NCAA title game this month. Kirschner said the school plans to release the new NOA later Monday.

The NCAA first sent an NOA last May, hitting the school with five potential top-level violations that included lack of institutional control. UNC had 90 days to respond, but that process paused in August when the school reported additional information to the NCAA for review.

UNC took two weeks to redact information to comply with privacy laws before releasing the first one.

NCAA spokeswoman Emily James declined to comment on pending or potential investigations in an email Monday.

The school’s academic case centers on independent study-style courses that required no class time and one or two research papers in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies department. Run largely by an office administrator – not a faculty member – the courses featured GPA-boosting grades and significant athlete enrollments across numerous sports, while poor oversight throughout the university allowed them to run unchecked for years.

A 2014 investigation by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments in problem African and Afro-American Studies courses.

UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham had said previously that the school hoped for a spring resolution in the academic case, an offshoot of a 2010 probe into the football program. But the arrival of the new notice is just a step in a process with months still ahead.

UNC again has 90 days to respond – which is often the point when schools self-impose penalties if they choose to do so – then the enforcement staff would have 60 days to respond to UNC’s filing. That would ultimately lead to a hearing with the infractions committee and a ruling that could come weeks to months afterward.

In the original football case, the NCAA issued sanctions in March 2012 roughly nine months after an NOA arrived. A similar timeline would carry this case through January, approaching seven years since NCAA investigators first arrived on campus.

The NCAA’s first NOA treated issues surrounding the courses as improper benefits, limiting the focus to between 2002 and 2011. It charged that a women’s basketball adviser provided improper help on assignments. No coaches were cited, but the institutional-control charge mentioned counselors using the courses to help keep at-risk athletes eligible “particularly” in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball.

UNC was near its response deadline in August before reporting additional improper assistance from the women’s basketball adviser and possible recruiting violations in men’s soccer.

The case also led to trouble for UNC with its accreditation agency, which put the school on a year of probation last June. There have also been three lawsuits filed by ex-UNC athletes, two of which are in pending in federal court.

 

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