Friday was supposed to be the day the University of North Carolina learned its fate in one of the biggest academic corruption cases in NCAA history. What they learned, though, is that they didn’t do anything worth punishing.
The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions ruled Friday that — though the Tar Heels likely committed academic fraud — it “could not conclude” that the university actually committed academic fraud.
The ruling is a shocking conclusion to a period of time where the university appeared to create extremely easy courses for its student-athletes to take in order to have significantly easier schedules.
“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 panel’s chief hearing officer and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. “The panel is troubled by the university’s shifting positions about whether academic fraud occurred on its campus and the credibility of the Cadwalader report, which it distanced itself from after initially supporting the findings. However, NCAA policy is clear. The NCAA 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.”
In other words, UNC needs to handle its paper courses on its own, and the NCAA doesn’t have the power to punish the school for academic fraud like this. The cover is that these bogus classes weren’t just used by student-athletes, but also students who wanted to skate by and get easy grades.
“While student-athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body,” Sankey said. “Additionally, the record did not establish that the university created and offered the courses as part of a systemic effort to benefit only student-athletes.”
Essentially, North Carolina simply diluted the quality of its education for all students and, though a many of those students were athletes, it was unable to determine that it was purely a direct student-athlete benefit. What followed was outrage from many in the college sports media, including those who have covered NCAA violations proceedings for decades.
It’s important to note that, somehow, the only punishment the university landed on one professor.
It was essentially unanimous among media types: this is an absurd ruling that only opens the door for further violations with little hope that any kind of punishment comes down in the future. This next tweet sums things up nicely.
Plenty of Tar Heels fans are, of course, thrilled by the ruling. But it shows the weakness of the NCAA in many ways, and just how silly the whole system is in many ways. The value of an education is often wielded as a cure-all for the myriad ways student-athletes are taken advantage of by universities. The learning is supposed to be worth the countless hours spent practicing and playing and making millions of dollars for the University through its athletics programs.
Turns out that education isn’t as valuable as many would think, both in North Carolina and likely elsewhere. And perhaps more importantly, the NCAA can’t do anything to fix it.