North Carolina is digging in its heels in its fight with the NCAA.
In a scathing 102-page response to the NCAA’s latest notice of allegations, North Carolina challenged the most serious accusation that academic fraud in African-American Studies classes taken by athletes constituted an “extra benefit” violation.
North Carolina argued that athletes were not treated any differently than non-athletes since the bogus African-American Studies courses were available to all students. Athletes made up only 29.4 percent of the enrollment in those courses, according to the school, and the athletes who took those classes were required to turn in the same coursework as non-athletes did.
While North Carolina conceded that the classes themselves were fraudulent, the school paints that as a problem stemming from “inadequate academic oversight unrelated to the Department of Athletics.” North Carolina therefore argues that the academic fraud allegations are outside NCAA jurisdiction and don’t constitute a violation of NCAA rules.
“The issues concerning the Courses are academic in nature, concern academic administration and lie beyond the reach of the bylaws belatedly invoked by the Staff,” North Carolina’s response said. “The Staff recognized beginning in August 2011 and continuing through September 26, 2013, that the issues raised by the Courses did not support bylaw violations. Their conclusions were consistent with similar situations at Auburn University and the University of Michigan regarding classes remarkably like the ones at [North Carolina]”
North Carolina had until May 16 to respond to the NCAA’s third notice of allegations. The response wasn’t made public until Thursday because the school said it needed several days to redact potential violations of privacy law.
The NCAA’s third notice of allegations inspired a strong reaction from North Carolina because it was significantly harsher than the previous two. It put football and men’s basketball back in the crosshairs, broadened the time frame of violations and expanded the scope of potential penalties North Carolina could receive.
Among the biggest changes was the NCAA reintroducing the argument that the bogus classes constitute extra benefits for the athletes enrolled in them. The Notice of Allegations claimed that North Carolina’s athletic department leveraged its relationship with two African-American Studies professors to “obtain and/or provide special arrangements for student-athletes in violation of extra-benefit legislation.”
The third Notice of Allegations also didn’t scapegoat the North Carolina’s women’s basketball team like the previous version seemed to do. The most recent edition specifically stated that “many at-risk student-athletes, particularly in the sports of football and men’s basketball, used these courses for purposes of ensuring their continuing NCAA academic eligibility.”
The timeframe in the NCAA’s latest allegations spanned from 2002-2011, a period which includes national titles the Tar Heels men’s basketball team won in 2005 and 2009. If the NCAA’s committee on infractions deems that players on those teams received extra benefits, they could be ruled ineligible, which would put North Carolina at risk of potentially vacating those titles.
The NCAA enforcement staff will have 60 days to review North Carolina’s response and address the issues raised. The case is then expected to proceed to a committee on infractions hearing later this summer.
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