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UNC responds strongly to the NCAA’s revised Notice of Allegations

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UNC fights back on whether the NCAA has the jurisdiction to question the validity of a member institution’s academic departments.

CNN.com

On Monday, Bubba Cunningham and the University of North Carolina athletics department sent a 73-page response to the NCAA’s revised Notice of Allegations, or NOA, from April 25. On Tuesday, the 73-page document became public and Cunningham held a teleconference summarizing the universities response.

Here was the university’s response to specific allegations:

Allegation 1:

The NCAA focused on former academic advisor Jane Boxill and the alleged improper benefits that Sylvia Hatchell’s women’s basketball program was receiving, stating “impermissible academic assistance and special arrangements to women’s basketball student athletes.” The NCAA was directly looking at the possible advantage these student-athletes were receiving academically because of their status of being a part of the women’s basketball program.

The university accepted that in 15 of the 18 alleged incidents Boxill provided extra benefits that were indeed in violation of NCAA bylaws given her position as an ASPSA (academic support) academic counselor. Although the university found Boxill to have provided extra benefits, they do not believe that Boxill acted unethically even though her actions were not within “university standards.” The reasoning behind its belief was that “Boxill worked with students as both a faculty member and a part-time ASPSA academic counselor, her actions may have been unintentional.” The university went on to suggest that the allegation should be treated as a Level III violation, as opposed to the suggested Level I.

Allegation 2 and 3:

The two separate allegations focused on Deborah Crowder and Julius Nyang’oro’s ethical conduct violations and refusal to cooperate with the NCAA’s investigation. The university accepted that Crowder and Nyang’oro’s behavior violated the NCAA’s ethical conduct legislation while recognizing that the university tried and failed at getting the two to be complicit with the investigation.

Allegation 4:

The NCAA accused UNC of failing to monitor ASPSA, the AFAM department and Jan Boxill. The university pointed to Section 2 of the response where it highlights its discovery of academic irregularities. In Section 2, the university details the investigation that SACSCOC (accrediting organization) conducted on the universities academic departments. They chronicle all the way back to May 2012, through the university being placed on probation in June 2015, up to this June, when the SACSCOC Board of Trustees removed the university from probation and determined that the University would keep its accreditation.

The University also highlighted that it worked closely with the NCAA while the SACSCOC investigation was ongoing. During this process that began in August 2011, the university interviewed numerous staff and student-athletes, which in turn led to Nyang’oro stepping down and the termination of Boxill. With all that was stated in Section 2, the University believes that no further action needs to, or could, take place. If so, they would accept the allegation of not monitoring Boxill along with a Level II violation, as opposed to Level I.

Allegation 5:

The NCAA accused the University of lacking institutional control for all the aforementioned allegations. The University disagreed with the allegation asserting that issues related to the UNC’s academic irregularities are in the business of their accrediting agency and not the NCAA, its athletics association. The University recognizes that the “paper courses” presented serious institutional issues, the NCAA doesn’t have a rule listed in their constitution or bylaws that could mandate a lack of institutional control on that front. The University goes on to present that Boxill’s actions were not influenced by the “paper courses” and therefore allegations 1 and 4 independently do not support a lack of institutional control.

Takeaways:

Carolina sticks up the proverbial middle finger to the NCAA

One of the biggest questions surrounding the NCAA’s two-year long investigation on Carolina’s academic departments relationship with athletics is whether the suits in Indianapolis were within their jurisdiction when investigating Carolina. The University clearly believes that the NCAA is not:

The fact that Carolina has separated academics and athletics in its fight against the lack of institutional control charge is key. Carolina only recognizes the NCAA as the governing body that oversees its compliance within athletics, which the NCAA was founded to do. Where as SACSCOC and other accrediting agencies are there to overlook the integrity of the academic departments within the university. Therefore, UNC does not deem the NCAA eligible to be critical, even if there are some known irregularities, of its academic department, even its relationship with student-athletes.

It is true that the NCAA was not founded to determine whether courses are legitimate or not, even though the organization does determine eligibility on the playing field. The fact of the matter is that the NCAA would be stepping out of its jurisdiction if it indeed goes forward with lack of institutional control as it relates to academics. Even more so with the fact that UNC has already been handed and served a year long probation from SACSCOC and has been cleared to keep its accreditation.

This is the NCAA we are dealing with, so it is hard to determine what they will do. I will give credit to Bubba Cunningham and the rest of the UNC officials for standing their ground in this matter. Outsiders clamored for an NCAA investigation following the Wainstein report and the university finally got the opportunity to say that they think the NCAA overstepped its bounds.

Fell on the sword with Crowder and Nyang’oro

Like John Blake in 2010, Carolina had no choice but to accept fault for the actions of two employees given their refusal to take part in the NCAA’s investigation. The NCAA may not always be so merciful, but at least when universities and all of its officials are cooperative things typically go smoother than the alternative. Both Crowder and Nyang’oro are long gone, so they couldn’t do any more damage outside of the dumpster fire they left.

Bubba is behind Sylvia

Coach Hatchell has had some tough years recently with her battle with cancer and the downturn of her program because of the NCAA cloud. It had to mean a lot to her to hear her AD go out of his way to demonstrate his full support for her and the women’s basketball program. This still doesn’t disguise the fact that they women’s basketball program is listed in allegation 1 and could be looking at potential sanctions if things don’t go Carolina’s way.

As Cunningham said during his teleconference, “NCAA is athletics, accrediting is academic. They have different jurisdictions.” We will find out whether the NCAA believes this to be the case.