UNC Athletics Vindicated As NCAA Refuses To Penalize School

The legend of Dean Smith and the unblemished pristine image that the University of North Carolina has enjoyed for decades as its basketball program has elevated the school to nationally-elite stratospheres, lives on. 

The N.C.A.A. shocked the universe on Friday choosing to play dumb rather than stain one of its own, historically lauded,  money machine university, announced that it could not conclude that the University of North Carolina violated N.C.A.A. academic rules in what is widely considered the worst academic scandal in college sports history.

The Shadow League on Twitter

NCAA clears University of North Carolina of academic violations: https://t.co/2nUVr5VbH9

The NCAA which governs the top tier of college sports in the United States, did not levy any penalties against North Carolina athletics. UNC stepped in a mudslide with white kixx on and came out with those sneakers clean as a whistle and rocking a powder blue cape of invincibility. 

After seven years of investigating and hyperbole being tossed around, with death penalty and hoops program demolition considered legitimate possible punishments, The Tar Heels of North Carolina came out unscathed. The universitys athletic department could have faced severe sanctions, including the loss of championships. University of Maryland President Wallace Loh said in April that he thought the NCAA’s investigation would lead to the death penalty for UNC

None of that happened.  

Its one of the remarkable Whodini acts in modern sports history. 

The N.C.A.A. didnt dispute the fact that academic fraud had occurred at North Carolina over a period of time spanning several years. However, the governing bodys committee on infractions, concluded through a panel it selected to investigate the accusations, that it did not have the power to punish the university.

So UNC adds another glorious win to its legacy. This time on a technicality. Tobacco Road is rocking today with various emotions from friends and rivals of the North Carolina program. To Dukes and the other ACC teams it must feel like when the cartel boss gets out of prison and plans to retake the streets. The impeccable reputation of UNC coach Roy Williams is also preserved as is the legacy of the coaches who preceded him at UNC. 

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MOOD https://t.co/9Vg4mgpdeN

While student-athletes likely benefited from the so-called paper courses offered by North Carolina, the information available in the record did not establish that the courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes, said Greg Sankey, the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, who led the panel.

N.C.A.A. policy is clear, he said. The N.C.A.A. defers to its member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred and, ultimately, the panel is bound to making decisions within the rules set by the membership.

So the 20 years of shadow curriculum enjoyed by privileged athletes at North Carolina never happened.  The charges of a  lack of institutional control resulting in violations of bylaws governing extra benefits to athletes and ethical conduct never occurred. 

Tar Heel opponents sure don’t like it. Some have compared UNC’s favorable verdict to OJ’s first trial. 

Chris Quay on Twitter

Maybe more egregious than OJ being found not guilty, 3 years to “not conclude” anything, unbelievable #UNC #NCAA https://t.co/Fi8aUvwgiS

What a different seven years makes. UNC played this to perfection. Drag it out, make some changes behind the scenes, admit to nothing and let politics win the day. Initially, the scandal was so serious that the universitys accreditation body briefly placed the institution on probation. It was supposed to be the scandal that shifted and exposed the overall misguided ethics concerning  how certain college sports powerhouses historically, blatantly coddle and favor its athletes. UNC cited instances in which similar misconduct was alleged at Auburn and Michigan, and the N.C.A.A. did not act.

There are certain schools that feed the NCAA’s belly and continue to help the governing body rise in economic value, size and power. The NCAA has no problem with attacking a specific player or coach, but it refuses to enter into a game where it demolishes the overall prestige, marketing or money-making potential of one of its flagship universities. 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.