October 28, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) North Carolina appeared before an NCAA infractions committee panel Friday for a procedural hearing in the multiyear academic case.

Athletic director Bubba Cunningham told The Associated Press the meeting lasted about five hours in Indianapolis but wouldn't comment on details.

''We are now looking forward the next phase of the process,'' said Cunningham, adding there was no timetable for a ruling.

The hearing was focused on procedural arguments made by UNC in response to five charges, including lack of institutional control. In a letter last month scheduling the hearing, the NCAA had said Friday's hearing wouldn't focus on the ''underlying facts or allegations'' of the case.

UNC had challenged the NCAA's jurisdiction by saying its accreditation agency - not the governing body for college sports - was the proper authority for academic questions.

The school also said some material from an outside investigator's report shouldn't be used because interviews weren't performed to NCAA protocols while also pointing to an expired four-year statute of limitations.

In addition, the school had argued a March 2012 ruling in an earlier case focused on the football program should have precluded some of the current charges, which are centered around years of irregular courses popular with athletes on the Chapel Hill campus.

Specifically, UNC has said the NCAA was aware of key issues in 2011 during the original probe, yet chose not to file additional charges before issuing the 2012 sanctions and had determined no violations occurred at various points in the following years before reopening an investigation in 2014.

In documents released this week, the NCAA enforcement staff said UNC's arguments were ''without merit.'' Noting that information has ''trickled in slowly,'' the NCAA has regarded findings from the 2014 investigation by former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein as new information that triggered the second look.

Wainstein's report focused on irregularities that included independent study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The courses required only a research paper or two while offering GPA-boosting grades, though many were misidentified as lecture courses that didn't meet.

Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes across numerous sports accounting for roughly half the enrollments.

None of the NCAA charges is tied solely to the existence of the problem AFAM courses. Rather, charges against the school are focused on failures in oversight, as well as for conduct by a former women's basketball academic counselor and two former AFAM staffers.

The timeline is likely to carry this case well into 2017, approaching seven years since NCAA investigators first arrived on campus in the original football case focused on improper benefits and academic misconduct.

Friday's hearing came exactly five years after UNC's hearing in that first case.

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