Tar Heels cleared of academic scandal by NCAA -- for now

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Despite suspect courses and a rogue professor, UNC will not yet be punished for academic fraud by the NCAA. (Getty Images)

The University of North Carolina revealed Friday that, over a year ago, it notified the NCAA of "potential academic issues involving student-athletes in African and Afro-American Studies courses."

For the multitude of critics against UNC and the NCAA's supposed lack of action against this school in this potential scandal, this was a how-you-like-me-now statement. Some cynically believed the NCAA was slow to move against UNC in light of such alarming evidence of previous academic improprieties. But the university was showing that in fact the institution itself didn't sleep on its possible impermissibles.

But here's the kicker. In the year since, UNC and the NCAA have worked together to look into the possible cheating and academic fraud within North Carolina's academic department. They did so only on the basis of investigating players who took phony courses or received spurious grades. Yes, it was a joint effort between North Carolina and the NCAA, but basically this was UNC looking into its own dark closets and shouting out to the NCAA, who was waiting around the corner, if they found anything.

And so far: no.

Turns out UNC is in the clear. As of now.

...

And State Fan just went nuclear.

Duke Fan will get to reacting just as soon as they finish coiffing.

But to those sitting, waiting, wishing for UNC to get hit with something over this, it's critical to remember: there are/were four investigations of academic wrongdoing. This was the first of the four. And UNC, not the NCAA, was the one bringing out the megaphone for Friday's news.

"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," UNC's press release said. "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."

There was an update from UNC to the NCAA as recently as last Thursday, Aug. 23. This was the most recent significant contact between the school and the Monolith. What we're being told here is all information regarding players, professors, cheating, not cheating -- all of it -- supposedly found its way to the NCAA.

And UNC won't face any punishment for findings thus far. There wasn't enough there to warrant punishment, according to the NCAA, which got most, if not all, of its information from people on the North Carolina payroll.

Despite this essentially being Phase One of the internal investigation (and why isn't the NCAA bringing more of its own to Chapel Hill? Fine question.), the news is already drawing rolling eyeballs. Beacuse we have actual evidence of transcription forgeries and a rogue professor who went from an esteemed position to poofing into the air within weeks of this story initially breaking. The overwhelming sample of football players (a few hoops players as well) taking classes leads plenty to believe rules were bent or broken to improve grades, ergo, improve eligibility.

As of now, though, UNC isn't facing so much as a smack from Indianapolis. It'll be interesting to see if anything changes going forward. It very well could. The media backlash is already in dilation as I write this. North Carolina still has three more internal investigations related to possible academic fraud ongoing. And don't forget, there is a third-party review by former governor Jim Martin to be fleshed out.

The story is still far from over.

You can follow Matt Norlander on Twitter: @MattNorlander.

 
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