5 things to know about the NCAA allegations against UNC athletics

CHAPEL HILL — The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill finally released the long-awaited Notice of Allegations the school received from the NCAA following what feels like a decades-long look at academic improprieties in multiple sports.

Reaction to the NOA was fascinating: depending on whom you ask, Carolina either got off scott-free or they’re in big trouble. As is almost always the case, it’s somewhere in between.

Here’s five things you should know about the NOA.

1. Lack of Institutional Control: This is the scary phrase for Tar Heel fans. LOIC is the catch-all phrase the NCAA utilizes to essentially say “your program is running amok.” No question this applies here (although it’s hard to imagine this happening across multiple sports five years ago when Marvin Austin tweeted about being in a club), with myriad sports being involved.

The three primary sports the NOA focused on were, in order of microscopic focus, women’s college basketball, football, and men’s college basketball.

The women’s college basketball program at Carolina is in BIG trouble. If there’s a primary culprit you’d point at after reading the NOA, it would be the ladies roundball squad. This doesn’t mean they violated the most rules or even violated the worst rules, but they definitely were caught with the most violations. To borrow a phrase used in battle, the women’s team is the first line of defense.
Don’t expect the presence of this program to deter the NCAA from punishing the rest of the programs. It’s a nice diversion but LOIC remains and the NCAA has traditionally dished out plenty of punishment, including postseason bans, for several sports involved in almost every single school charged with LOIC.

2. No Roy Williams: Great news for Carolina’s flagship program comes via the absence of specified information about either Dean Smith or Roy Williams. Smith is mentioned once in an email correspondence; Williams is only tangentially connected by mention of Wayne Walden, who worked closely with the coach on academics at both Kansas and UNC.

The larger point, however, is Carolina likely escapes with its basketball banners intact. The NCAA specifically mentioned “18 years” as a timeline for an “unchecked” AFAM program at Carolina, while also referencing 2002 as a starting point for violations.

Given Carolina won basketball championships in 2005 and 2009, this NOA could be MUCH worse. The idea of banners coming down from the Dean Dome rafters is unfathomable. Nothing is off the table yet but it seems unlikely Carolina will be forced to vacate a title based on this report. Likewise, UNC isn’t getting the death penalty, although anyone who thought they were was glaring through the most pessimistic of glasses.

3. Five Different Allegations: The NCAA hit Carolina with five different allegations.

1) Impermissible benefits — The NCAA alleges from fall of 2002 through summer of 2011 the school’s athletes got a ton of preferential treatment including but not limited to: steering athletes to classes, providing excessive assistance, and changing grades.

2) Extra Benefits — From April 2007 through July 2010, Jan Boxill provided extra benefits for women’s college basketball.

3) Violation of Ethical Conduct — From 2014 through 2015 Deborah Crowder refused to participate in interviews and provide the NCAA information.

4) Violation of Ethical Conduct — From 2014 through 2015, Dr. Julius Nyang’oro refused to participate in interviews and provide the NCAA information.

5) Lack of Institutional Control — see above.

Take all of these individually and there is reason for optimism. Everything is pointed, largely, at women’s basketball; two of the sanctions are involving people who refused to talk; and a third violation is based entirely off of the broad spectrum of the other violations.

On the other hand, take a global view and you can certainly see how the NCAA isn’t playing around here.

Will UNC self impose punishments? AD Bubba Cunningham says the school will fight the allegations to a degree but we’ve seen recently the NCAA is far more lenient if schools self impose punishment ahead of time.

David Roberts, a member of the Committee on Infractions (who will hear UNC’s response) made it clear in 2013 how important self imposing is.

“Anybody out there now realizes if you have a major infraction problem with the NCAA, what you really should do is get in there and do some real examination and probably self-impose and take your medicine,” Roberts told the Los Angeles Times. 

5. Possible Penalties and Timeline: Here’s where it gets tricky. No one knows that the NCAA will hit Carolina with in terms of punishments. If someone says they do, they’re lying.

We DO know when UNC will respond to the NOA. August 20 is the school’s deadline for a response and Cunningham expects to use the fully allotted time.

At that point, the COI will examine Carolina’s response and make a ruling. UNC can beat the Committee to the punch and self-impose, which wouldn’t be surprising, although postseason bans at that point would impact two expected high-end seasons from football and men’s basketball. (UNC doesn’t have to self-impose a postseason ban, but you don’t scare away the COI by slapping yourself on the wrist.)

One thing to watch: a lack of cooperation. Just because two of the allegations involve individuals who wouldn’t talk doesn’t mean UNC is free from punishment there. The NCAA certainly understands testimony from Crowder and Nyang’oro could generate specifics to broaden the net. The NCAA hasn’t ever been thrilled about a lack of cooperation when it comes to punishment.

A wide-ranging group of punishments could involve postseason bans, vacated wins, loss of scholarships and probation. Or all of the above or even, in a home run for UNC, none of the above.

What we know now — we think — is UNC won’t get the death penalty and should probably retain banners.

But this saga is far from over.