In an exclusive interview with CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd, University of North Carolina Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham opened up about the ongoing NCAA investigation into the school's academic fraud case and revealed that he believed the school may have been "overcharged" by the association.
The investigation into the school, which has now lasted six years, began when a faulty transcript in another case revealed what appeared to be a trail of bogus classes stretching back 18 years. It's an unprecedented case that has been in the hands of the NCAA for an unusually long time. It's also a case that, according to Dodd's report, involved 3,100 students in those classes -- about half of which were student-athletes. So it's an unusually long investigation for an equally unusual case.
North Carolina has been charged by the NCAA with unethical conduct, lack of institutional control, and extra benefits provided by a perpetrator of a bogus class scheme.
UNC received its third notice of allegations in December -- its second amended notice -- which was given out after the school challenged the NCAA's authority in the case.
For Cunningham, the worry is that the history of handing down harsh punishments in scandals such as Penn State, USC and Miami, will again draw "an overreach" by the NCAA. He is hoping the association will come down with less crippling results.
"[Those] are the three cases that we continue to bring back, [saying], 'You're doing it again. Don't do it,'" said Cunningham.
From a basketball perspective, the worry for UNC is simple: The NCAA broadened its investigation into the school to include the years 2002-2011 in its latest NOA. That could mean the 2005 and 2009 basketball National Championships could reasonably be in jeopardy.
Citing sources, Dodd reports that this could mean penalties such as scholarship reductions, postseason bans, or vacated wins could conceivably be in play.
Said Cunningham: "Is this academic fraud? Yes, it is by a normal person's standards. But by the NCAA definition [it is not]. Later adding: "I'm telling you what happened was bad, but it's not against the rules. So you have to change the rules."