Monday marks the deadline for athletics director Bubba Cunningham and rest of the North Carolina athletics department to respond to the NCAA’s revised Notice of Allegations, or NOA, from April 25. This comes at an interesting time, as the ACC Kickoff is slated for Thursday and Friday of this week in Charlotte.
Although, it is still unclear when Cunningham and the university will respond, Cunningham has assured the press that the university is “on schedule” to respond to the NOA.
Mercifully, by Monday we’ll all know what, after 90 days, the university has to say about Jan Boxill’s impermissible assistance to Sylvia Hatchell’s women’s basketball program, Julius Nyang’oro’s AFAM program, Deborah Crowder’s misconduct, and the most glaring accusation of them all, “lack of institutional control”.
Unfortunately, it still won’t be until sometime in early 2017 – potentially during basketball season—when we find out the fate of the athletics department. More importantly, the fate of the men’s basketball and football programs, which to this point have been widely thought by many to have been exonerated given the contents of the revised NOA.
Jay Bilas, in particular, has been outspoken in his belief that what occurred at UNC from 1993-2011, whether one believes it to be right or wrong, is out of the NCAA’s jurisdiction. Whether the NCAA believes that to be the case is still to be decided. We’ve seen in recent years that the NCAA has stepped out of bounds in dealing with the sensitive Jerry Sandusky case at Penn State, which still sickeningly continues to add more layers nearly five years after the story broke, in which they placed strict sanctions, only to uplift them two years after the fact.
Obviously, Carolina and Penn State’s cases aren’t close to being in the same continuum. Where they relate is in the fact that they don’t lie in the set mission of the NCAA. Still, whether in the NCAA’s “jurisdiction” or not, no program is “safe” until a final verdict is placed by the suits in Indianapolis.
As for when Carolina will respond is up in the air. We know that it will be by the Monday deadline, but will it occur before or after ACC Kickoff? One would think that Cunningham would want the focus of the conferences media event to be on the school’s football program.
I’m sure that Larry Fedora would rather be answering questions about the program hoping to keep up the momentum of a 11-win season, rather than be bombarded by questions of possible sanctions. Anything opposite of what occurred last week for Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss is something that the university should be aiming for.
Of course, there’s also a sentiment that could err on the side of being transparent with the media and moving quickly forward to the September date with Georgia in Atlanta. Fedora could answer many of the questions that the media has been yearning to ask about the state of his program and others in Chapel Hill.
With the new set up of the conferences media day, Fedora would only be under the microscope for one day (Thursday), as opposed to the two or three in years past. In that, he could possibly dodge any of the hard questions thrown his way. Even still, it wouldn’t be wise to throw your coach and student-athletes into that situation, especially if not fully prepped beforehand.
Commissioner John Swofford will be speaking hours before Fedora, and assuredly speaking in-depth about the massive deal the conference reached with ESPN to bring a digital network in August and later a linear network in 2019, any news of a NOA response would be overshadowed.
What next? We wait. After Cunningham and the Tar Heel athletic department respond the university is at the mercy of the NCAA, which we all know is not a favorable position to be in. As stated before, a verdict is unlikely to come before the new year. It will be interesting to see, if like may others in recent years, the university feels the need to impose self-sanctions as the clock ticks towards a final verdict.
The fact of the matter is, Carolina is coming close to watching the five-year long cloud move past Chapel Hill and that’s something to, if not celebrate, exhale about.