Cunningham: NCAA Was Informed of AFAM Scandal All Along

Alternate headline: Sad Panda for Dan Kane and ABCers, at least as far as the NCAA is concerned.

Inside Carolina sat down with UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham on Monday and chief among the discussion topics was the burgeoning academic scandal involving the Afro-American Studies department. Cunningham addressed both the involvement of student-athletes and where things stand with the NCAA regarding that issue. In the interview, Cunningham confirmed that UNC has shared information with the NCAA regarding the AFAM situation all along and that no further action is expected by the NCAA.

As IC's Greg Barnes writes:

The school released a 10-page report in early May detailing the investigation’s findings. There was no evidence found of student-athletes receiving favorable treatment over other students or of students receiving grades without submitting work. There was also no information available to indicate that department personnel received any tangible benefits “beyond their standard University compensation.”

...

While media reports have surfaced in recent weeks detailing the AFAM situation through public records requests, that information was already made available to the NCAA dating back to the summer of 2011.

“We have provided everything that we know to the NCAA and have for a long time, so we don’t anticipate any other NCAA issues,” Cunningham said. “Could there be? Certainly. But at this point, we feel like we’ve communicated everything to them, so we don’t anticipate it.”

Despite the best efforts of the N&O's Kane to imply that the AFAM scandal is primarily an athletic issue, the fact remains that the enrollment in the suspect classes totaled 215 athletes and 193 non-athletes (plus 26 former athletes not included in either total) and it is therefore hard to argue that the classes were set up for the specific benefit of athletes. And if athletes are not receiving benefits beyond what other students (in this case, almost 200 of them) received, then the NCAA is not really interested. In addition, the NCAA tends not to get involved in the academic operations of their member institutions.

The other big takeaway from this piece is that just because UNC hasn't chosen to share everything about the AFAM investigation with the media, it doesn't mean it wasn't shared with the NCAA. Clearly the pertinent details and salient points were brought to the NCAA's attention, and at this point it would appear the NCAA is done with UNC, especially since they are referring questions about the AFAM issue back to the university instead of saying they cannot comment on an ongoing investigation.

So what does this mean in the grand scheme of things? Much to the chagrin of ABCers, the NCAA is likely done with UNC for the time being so the USC or SMU-level sanctions they were hoping for will probably not come to pass. But the AFAM scandal is not over by a long shot. There are still unanswered questions and a final accounting of that situation is still on the table. How UNC chooses to respond to that is of far more consequence than any NCAA sanction.

This would be the point at which I offer a history lesson to our lupine brethren who hope for Carolina to suffer a fate similar to their own from two decades ago. While it is in their DNA to play the martyr and live in a permanent state of persecution over what they consider to be the N&O's crusade to skewer NCSU over "some tickets and a few pairs of shoes" with the NCAA, what set their program on the rocks for the next ten years or more were the academic issues. The NCAA penalties themselves were relatively light and were fairly commensurate with what UNC received in football for 2012. But the NCAA investigation led to a deeper examination of the culture of academics that were evidenced by an atrocious graduation rate and lax academic enforcement that went on all the way to the chancellor's office. In other words, the "tickets and shoes" were a gateway to the larger issues. In this case, "tweets and tutors" may serve the same purpose. But at least as far as the NCAA is concerned, they have taken their pound of flesh.

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