It has been 609 days since NCAA investigators began interviews with an undisclosed number of athletes at North Carolina, including defensive tackle Marvin Austin and wide receiver Greg Little, regarding potential violations stemming from improper benefits.
On Monday, the NCAA Committee on Infractions issued their ruling regarding what became a multi-pronged investigation into the entire North Carolina football program. In June 2011, the NCAA informed the school that the program was allegedly guilty of nine major NCAA violations, including academic misconduct and impermissible benefits to players. The school proposed their own set of penalties in September 2011, and had a chance to defend themselves to the Committee on Infractions in late October 2011.
The NCAA has increased North Carolina's self-imposed penalty of 9 scholarships over the next three years to 15 scholarships over the same period. The Committee has also ruled that the school's self-imposed two years of probation be increased to three. However, the biggest development in the NCAA ruling was the additional penalty of a ban from postseason play for the 2012 season.
The school included the vacating of all 2008 and 2009 victories in their response to the Notice of Allegations, and included the multiple suspensions and penalties served by student-athletes during the 2010 season.
“This case should serve as a cautionary tale to all institutions to vigilantly monitor the activities of those student-athletes who possess the potential to be top professional prospects,” the COI stated in the report. “It should also serve to warn student-athletes that if they choose to accept benefits from agents or their associates, they risk losing their eligibility for collegiate competition.”
Former North Carolina defensive coordinator John Blake was also issued with a three-year show-cause penalty from the NCAA. The show-cause ruling normally prevents an individual from taking a job with an NCAA member institution. If the individual were to be hired, the institution must "show cause" for why they should not be punished for having that person on staff.
The investigation has been a black cloud over the North Carolina program for the last two seasons. As many as 13 players - including half of the defensive starting lineup - missed at least one game in 2010, and head coach Butch Davis was fired as a result of the investigation just days before the opening of 2011 fall camp. At the time of Davis' dismissal, longtime athletic director Dick Baddour announced his plans to retire so that a new athletic director could hire the next football coach.
The penalties from the NCAA investigation will fall on new head coach Larry Fedora, hired in December after winning a Conference USA Championship with Southern Mississippi.
"I was aware of the NCAA case at the time I was named head coach," Fedora said on Monday. "[Athletic director] Bubba Cunningham and [Chancellor] Holden Thorp were forthright and honest with me throughout the hiring process as I made the decision to take the job. I chose Carolina because this is one of the best schools in the country with high standards of academic and athletic excellence. In so many ways, Carolina has exceeded my expectations.
"My only regret is for the current players, especially the seniors, who will not have the opportunity to compete for an ACC championship and go through the experience of a bowl game in 2012. We will do all we can to make every game this year a special experience for our seniors and fans.”
Fedora will lead the Tar Heels into spring practice on Wednesday, with the annual Spring Game scheduled for April 14.
READ MORE: The NCAA Public Infractions Report (PDF)
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