NCAA agrees with UNC: Paper classes not a benefit only to athletes

NCAA agrees with UNC: Paper classes not a benefit only to athletes

NCAA agrees with UNC: Paper classes not a benefit only to athletes

North Carolina has finally learned its fate in a multiyear NCAA academic case.

A Division I Committee on Infractions hearing panel could not conclude that the University of North Carolina violated NCAA academic rules when it made available deficient Department of African and Afro-American Studies "paper courses" to the general student body, including student-athletes.

"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 exclusively created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes", said Greg Sankey, the panel's chief hearing officer and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. Investigators first arrived at UNC more than seven years ago in a football probe that ultimately spawned this case focused on irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments.

The NCAA had over three years to decide what to do about the supposed academic fraud happening at North Carolina and, at least apparently, they couldn't figure a single thing out.

The scheme involved almost 200 laxly administered and graded classes - frequently requiring no attendance and just one paper - over almost two decades.

Former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein released an independent investigation into the scandal, and by his estimate more than half of the 3,100 students that enrolled in those course from 1993-2011 were Tar Heel athletes.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

The football program was sanctioned in March of 2012 in the NCAA's initial case, but in the summer of 2014, the investigation was reopened.

The NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes. The fight has included plenty of back and forth and three different Notices of Allegations from the NCAA.

The school could be placed on probation and fined a certain amount of money.

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: "The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA's business". The NCAA found, as UNC has argued, that the classes benefitted all students, not primarily student-athletes. He counted athletes who were no longer team members.