As expected, North Carolina released its response to the NCAA’s second Amended Notice of Allegations on Thursday, continuing a saga that has spanned an eternity. Though the response is new, Carolina’s message remains the same: anything that went on in the AFAM department is an academic issue.
It is a strong response from the school, detailing how similar incidents were handled at other institutions. The response details how “paper classes” and other related courses at schools like Auburn and Michigan did not draw any violations from the NCAA.
One of the biggest revelations from this response from Carolina was specific figures about student-athlete enrollment within the improper courses. UNC asserts that student-athlete enrollment accounted for 29.4% of enrollment in the AFAM classes in question, showing that they were not geared toward keeping athletes eligible and open in equal measure to non-athletes at Carolina.
UNC uses this figure to call out the attempt to change the bylaw from making classes “generally available” to athletes and non-athletes alike to needing to be “proportionally used by the institution’s student-athletes” which has no precedence. UNC makes sure to note that the enforcement here is outlined for availability and not usage.
Another point of contention from UNC points to the NCAA’s statute of limitations that allows only a four-year window from the Notice of Inquiry. The date of the Notice of Inquiry was June 30, 2014, which allows only for issues that date back to 2010 and not before.
Because Carolina believes that the issues within the department were on the academic side, noting that the courses in question were open to all students and student-athletes received no special treatment within the courses, they maintain that there is no reason for the NCAA to charge them with lack of institutional control or failure to monitor.
One area that UNC does concede a bit to the NCAA is when it comes to Professor Jan Boxill providing extra benefits for athletes, and on the subject of Professor Julius Nyang’oro failing to cooperate with the investigation. Carolina believes that not all of the charges against Boxill have merit, but does allow that some would be considered violations.
While the NCAA would like to pin five Level I charges on the school, UNC does outline pretty convincingly reasons why those charges may be unfounded. For instance, the response draws comparisons between Boxill’s actions and an incident at Weber State where only Level III violations were said to have occurred.
The University is rightfully tough in response to the NCAA on the subject of needing to remain consistent and work only within their bylaws. UNC calls out potential influence of the media narrative over the panel, and the need to make a decision based on the facts at hand. They also maintain that the issue was one of “inadequate academic oversight” and not any violations of the NCAA bylaws.
In a phone call with the media following the release of the response, UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham reiterated that UNC will exhaust every option available to them if the NCAA does not measure the facts correctly with their own bylaws. Meaning? The school is not afraid to take this to court if necessary.
Cunningham also noted that there were internal considerations of self-imposing sanctions, but that it was not part of their response. That makes it sound like an unrealistic possibility at this point, as long as UNC feels as though the facts are on their side.
Next up is a meeting between North Carolina and the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions at some point in August. Cunningham did not provide a specific date for the meeting during his call.
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If UNC's response to the second NOA was essentially "Get off our lawn," this one is "Get off our lawn, and this shotgun is loaded."— Luke DeCock (@LukeDeCock) May 25, 2017