Now that the NCAA has delivered the notice of inquiry to UNC the investigation into Tar Heel football finally moves into the part of the process where procedures are a little more defined.
The NCAA lays out the enforcement procedure here. Right from the start, the NCAA is a little off the track in the way they have handled this investigation. The NCAA has mostly completed the investigation without having sent the notice of inquiry first. The NCAA is not one to explain...well...anything so I guess they won't be telling why they did the investigation first and sent the inquiry letter after it was over. One possibility is perhaps the NCAA wanted the probe to be as open ended as possible. The inquiry letter received by UNC indicates a time frame finishing the investigation. If that is a required part of the letter then sending the notice to UNC at the beginning of the investigation it would have been difficult to establish a finishing date.
At this stage the inquiry letter has been sent and the actual investigating is done(we hope) so what will the next step be?
If the enforcement staff discovers the school has committed one or more major violations, school leadership is sent a notice of allegations that contains specific alleged rules infractions against the school. After the letter of inquiry is sent, the enforcement staff must send the notice of allegations within six months.
The notice of allegations tells the school and all involved individuals the alleged violations the NCAA enforcement staff found during the investigation process. The involved parties have 90 days to respond and may request additional time if necessary.
If during the investigation process the enforcement staff determines the information no longer indicates a rules violation, the school receives written notice the investigation has concluded.
If the investigation process lasts longer than one year after the notice of inquiry is sent, the enforcement staff has to review the status of the case with the NCAA Committee on Infractions. If the Committee on Infractions believes the investigation should continue, the school will receive notice in writing and status reports at least every six months until the case has come to a conclusion.
Technically the NCAA could take another six months to produce the notice of allegations. Since the investigation is almost a year old as it is I don't see that happening and there are rumors floating that the NOA could be forthcoming as early as later this week in an effort to get UNC slotted into the next Committee on Infractions review. When UNC does receive the NOA a 90 day clock starts for UNC and other involved parties to respond. The "other parties" could be important depending on how or when UNC chooses to respond. Basically the response is the school agreeing or disagreeing with the facts of the case. The same is true for any other parties involved. In UNC's case it is possible the administration forgoes the 90 days and responds immediately by saying, "Thank you sir, may I have another?" The problem could come if other parties named, such as John Blake take longer to respond or don't respond at all. Should that happen this could drag the process out longer. Once UNC responds(or 90 days comes) there are certain prescribed timetables that go into effect.
When all involved parties have responded to the alleged rules violations found by the NCAA staff, a hearing date is set with the Committee on Infractions. A prehearing conference with the school and other involved individuals is held four to six weeks before the hearing. During this conference call, the allegations are discussed.
Case Summary compiled
Before the hearing, the enforcement staff writes a case summary. The case summary documents the allegations, the involved individuals, any outstanding issues and other information relevant to the case. At least two weeks before the hearing date, the individuals involved with the hearing and the Committee on Infractions receive the case summary.
After the response is given a couple of things happen. First a date is set for a hearing before the Committee on Infractions. Once that is done, conference call will occur four to six weeks prior to the hearing to discuss allegations. That sounds a little like a mock hearing to get a grasp on the details or a bureaucratic waste of time. Also during this time frame (two weeks before the hearing) the NCAA will write the case summary for release to the involved parties. Of course this is all very interesting in that the NCAA will basically tell a school what they did wrong and how all it all ends then the school gets to answer in person. This is the very essence of "guilty until proven innocent." The end result is the NCAA pronounces judgment along with the penalties.
The part which might interest UNC the most is the concept of a summary disposition.
If everyone associated with the investigation agrees about the facts and the penalties presented in the report, an in-person hearing does not have to take place. This process is called a summary disposition and is a cooperative process between the school, involved individuals and the NCAA enforcement staff. Together, the group compiles the violations of NCAA rules and the proposed penalties. The Committee on Infractions reviews the report in private and decides to either accept the findings and penalties or they can conduct an expedited hearing.
All through the his process Dick Baddour has said the probe is joint with UNC is working with the NCAA. Some of that is semantics or spin. However it may mean UNC is pressing for a summary disposition. Since the level of cooperation has been so high I would be shocked to see Baddour make too many waves. The benefit of the summary disposition is it should get the process finished more quickly. The catch? All parties involved have to agree with the allegations and penalties. That might be a tough sell for some and we still don't know the full extent of the allegations against UNC. It is possible UNC could have issues with some of them thus availing itself of the entire process. It is important to note UNC did not take all of the player penalties lying down. Obviously there are different motivations when addressing individual players versus dragging out a probe into the football program. The conclusion of this business will come when the COI reviews all the findings, penalties, etc and then announces them. It is possible there could still be a hearing in a summary disposition if the COI wants one. Such a hearing would be expedited. Should UNC go the full route with this, there will be a full hearing before the COI and at some point after that the COI will announce the penalties.
The flip side here is UNC likely already knows what the NOA is going to say. If that is the case discussions have already happened as to what the next step will be. Having watched this situation unfold over the past 11 months I think I speak for most Tar Heel fans when I say hopefully the decision on how to respond will be based on the path of least resistance to reach closure.