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UNC: NCAA Knows Everything About AFAM and Has Not Found a Violation (For Now)

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Cue the outrage from everyone.

Full statement via Inside Carolina:

In light of continuing speculation about the role of the NCAA in the review of academic issues in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is providing the following information:

“The University first notified the NCAA that it had identified potential academic issues involving student-athletes in African and Afro-American Studies courses on August 24, 2011. We asked the NCAA to join us in our investigation of these issues, and they agreed to do that. A member of the NCAA enforcement staff traveled to Chapel Hill several times in the fall of 2011 and participated throughout the investigation.

With the NCAA enforcement staff, our internal working group of University Counsel Leslie Strohm, Senior Associate Dean Jonathan Hartlyn, and former faculty athletics representative Jack Evans interviewed faculty and staff in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, academic support counselors, and student-athletes who had taken multiple courses in the department.

Based on the joint review, UNC and the NCAA staff concluded there were no violations of current NCAA rules or student-athlete eligibility issues related to courses in African and Afro-American Studies. As a result, the NCAA did not add any allegations or include this issue during the University’s appearance in October 2011 before the Committee on Infractions.

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Karen Gil subsequently commissioned a review of courses in African and Afro-American Studies. In May, the University publicly issued that report and provided it to the NCAA.

On Aug. 23, 2012, University Counsel Leslie Strohm and Senior Associate Dean Jonathan Hartlyn provided an update to the enforcement staff. The NCAA staff reaffirmed to University officials that no NCAA rules appeared to have been broken.

University officials will continue to keep the NCAA informed as developments warrant.”

This has made everyone, including a lot of national media types, crazy as bedbugs today. I haven't checked Pack Pride but I can only imagine the explosion of anger over there.

It should be noted that this is not new, at least to those of us who took the time to read the NCAA rules and understands the publicized details of the case. First, regular students benefited from these classes. The classes were not, as the media tries to portray it, setup solely for athletes. They were open to anyone and everyone who wanted to take them. Secondly, while academic advisers may have steered players to these classes(or easier ones in general) but there was no "wink-wink" going on between AFAM and the advisers. Julius Nyang'oro and Debbie Crowder were operating on their own and not at the behest of anyone in the athletic department. That is a key point. The NCAA is not going to roll in to investigate an academic department where non-athletes were receiving the same benefit as athletes with no overt connection to the athletic department. In addition to that is something lost in all the furor which is, according to everything UNC has found, students did work in these classes. The grade changes and forgeries are a concern but that doesn't involve anyone in the athletic department but only persons working on the academic side.

So what now? First of all, I wouldn't pop any champagne yet nor do I understand why the critics are going nuts as though this was some final determination. Former Governor Jim Martin is leading an additional review into this mess which will stretch beyond the 2007-11 time frame. He also will look further into what happened in that four year span as well. His final report plus other UNC Board of Governor reviews and what the NCAA chooses to do with them, should provide the finale for this whole sordid affair. UNC's statement deals with what we know to this point or rather what UNC knows. Yes, it is trumpeting good news in an effort to temper the media firestorm a bit, a rare pro-active strike from UNC PR. The hope is to calm the waters and keep the sharks at bay until Governor Martin and the auditing firm finish their work.

The bottom line here is according to the NCAA rules and information at hand, the non-action is appropriate. It was appropriate when Michigan had almost 300 classes being taught by one professor which was 85% student-athletes. That case goes widely unmentioned when discussing UNC's case which, based on the information the NCAA received, involved only 54 classes and a 60% athlete participation rate. For now, the NCAA is content to see how the Martin review turns out and act according to the rulebook. The national media, who seem to want Penn State-type action against UNC are missing the fact Penn State's case was an outlier and was not governed by any specific NCAA rules on the book. You can argue the NCAA overstepped its bounds at PSU which is fine. However the response to what happened at Penn State should not be the NCAA ignoring the rulebook and slamming UNC in the same manner unless there is proof said rules were violated. So far no one has opted to write the piece that connects the rules to the details of the case. They are instead content to throw around words like "institutionalized academic fraud" as though it proves something. Show me a well thought out piece which actual rules cited and real information from the NCAA or former NCAA staff members then I will be glad to listen. Otherwise I can do without the faux rage, excessive whining and incessant insinuations that prove nothing.

Oh and allow me to applaud as loudly as I can in UNC's direction for dropping this jewel a few hours before NC State takes the field in its season opener vs Tennessee driving 3/4 of the Wolfpack fan base to the brink of further insanity.