How UNC Avoided Lack of Institutional Control Charge

Despite plenty to chew on in a 42-page notice of allegations from the NCAA, the University of North Carolina avoided the scarlet letter(s) of NCAA violations, lack of institutional control. Although ABCers and many national media types who have not followed this story from the beginning have been bloviating about how UNC escaped LOIC given the egregiousness of the charges, there are a couple of clear-cut instances that can be pointed to as why the NCAA chose not to level the most serious of accusations against Carolina.

As a primer to what is, and is not, considered LOIC, take a few minutes to scan this document that indicates the "principles of institutional control as prepared by the NCAA Committee on Infractions". Key in that piece is the following:

VIOLATIONS THAT DO NOT RESULT FROM A LACK OF INSTITUTIONAL CONTROL.

An institution cannot be expected to control the actions of every individual who is in some way connected with its athletics program.  The deliberate or inadvertent violation of a rule by an individual who is not in charge of compliance with rules that are violated will not be considered to be due to a lack of institutional control:

• if adequate compliance measures exist;

• if they are appropriately conveyed to those who need to be aware of them;

• if they are monitored to ensure that such measures are being followed; and

• if, on learning that a violation has occurred, the institution takes swift action

With that in mind, here are a few specific reasons I suspect UNC did not receive a lack of institutional control charge:

1. UNC has a long history of NCAA compliance.

UNC's last - and only - major NCAA violation was over 50 years ago in a basketball point-shaving scandal that affected a number of schools.[THF: As was pointed out by reader Blue Parrot, UNC's only major violation was tied to recruiting by Frank McGuire as noted in the NCAA's database. However, the point shaving scandal is often cited as the violation UNC committed. The NCAA database does not reference that scandal at all. Oh and if you want to tweak any NCSU fans who give you crap, tell them to do a search on their school on the database. Fun stuff there. Carry on.] Carolina's athletics compliance department has been recognized by the NCAA for its excellence in compliance. Clearly the NCAA felt that adequate compliance measures exist.

This contrasts sharply with say, USC, which had simultaneous major violations going on in football and basketball, or with Ohio State, in which the NCAA said the compliance office had not properly educated players. Oh, and Ohio State has had 375 secondary violations in recent years and a major infraction in basketball in the last decade and even they did not get LOIC in their football mess (so far).

2. UNC acted properly in regards to Jennifer Wiley

When it became clear that Wiley was getting too cozy with players, she was removed from the academic support center. Also, according to the notice of allegations, she was notified by letter from UNC as to what sort of contact was permissible with players when she was no longer employed by UNC. If she was properly notified about regulations (and the NCAA seems to feel she was), then violations on her part are beyond the scope of institutional control (AKA the "rogue tutor" defense).

Of course there is the matter of Wiley's personal employment by Butch Davis, but given the scrutiny and detail of the allegations that were made against Wiley, it seems safe to assume that the NCAA looked at that and found nothing improper.

3. UNC was proactive, cooperating with the NCAA and withholding players

This would certainly qualify as "swift action" as proscribed in the NCAA guidelines. UNC threw the doors wide open to the NCAA, going so far as telling Robert Quinn to hand over his cell phone. UNC also withheld players until they received the green light from the NCAA. It has been argued that UNC sunk the 2010 football season by holding players out, as opposed to Auburn and Ohio State, which played their athletes in question and dealt with the consequences (or lack thereof) later.

These actions, as much as any, may have kept UNC out of LOIC trouble.

4. John Blake was vetted by UNC but apparently was lying to everybody.

Two often-forgotten facts as everyone seeks to pile on UNC and Butch Davis for hiring Blake in the first place are that A) UNC sought clearance from the NCAA before hiring Blake and B) Blake lied on his employment records to hide his association with Gary Wichard.

When Blake was first hired at UNC, the school made a request of the NCAA as to whether or not he had any red flags and the NCAA replied he did not. Whether or not the request or response were perfunctory, it demonstrates a compliance procedure in place, which is key in determining LOIC.

There has been much discussion about the "rogue coach" clause of the NCAA, which is described as this:

If the head coach sets a proper tone of compliance and monitors the activities of all assistant coaches in the sport, the head coach cannot be charged with the secretive activities of an assistant bent on violating NCAA rules.

Blake lied to UNC about his relationship with Wichard from the day he was hired right up to his final interview with the school and the enforcement staff after this all came down. In addition, UNC apparently had policies in place for coaches to report outside income and the NCAA maintains Blake's money transfers from Wichard should have been reported but were not. It is easy to see how it could be interpreted that UNC had procedures in place but Blake's pattern of misleading behavior over a number of years fits this section.

5. The academic issues and improper benefits are considered self-reported by the NCAA.

Again, this is where UNC's cooperation with the NCAA comes into play. I think it is safe to say much of what was revealed in this investigation was discovered jointly, but UNC's willingness to dig into what was going on and work with the NCAA resulted in the offenses dealing directly with players being called self-reported.

In the end, ABCers want LOIC attached to Carolina as payback for something from two decades ago, and local and national talking heads expected it because of the nature of the offenses. But looking at the NCAA's own criteria for LOIC, it makes sense why that charge was not leveled at UNC - there were appropriate compliance policies and procedures in place and the university took swift action when presented with violations.

UNC still faces a stiff charge of "failure to monitor", which I tweeted was like being charged with manslaughter instead of murder. But I think it is telling that none of the three areas cited under the FTM have to do with Wiley, Blake, or the improper benefits other than Chris Hawkins, who the NCAA apparently hates more than Osama bin Laden. Academic fraud, agent runners, and improper benefits would most likely draw the severest of sanctions when UNC reaches the penalty phase, but none of those were included in the FTM (again save Hawkins). Either way, this story is a long way from over and the fireworks will start again towards the end of the year with the NCAA hearing and penalty phase yet to come.

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