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NCAA Declares UNC Did Not Violate Academic Fraud Rules

The only penalty for UNC is a five-year show-cause order for a former department chair. 

The University of North Carolina received no punishment from the NCAA stemming for an investigation of academic irregularities at the school, it announced Friday.

The investigation stemmed from UNC’s so-called “paper classes” that required minimal coursework—simply a paper at the end of the semester—and were most popular with athletes. The NCAA ruled that the classes did not violate its policies, though.  

“While student-athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who oversaw the investigation, said in a statement. “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.”

North Carolina faced five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control, and athletes receiving "preferential access" to African and Afro-American Studies classes. The only violations the NCAA’s panel found were lack of cooperation by two former UNC employees, the former department head and former secretary of curriculum.

The former department head is the only person facing any sanctions from the NCAA as a result of the case. He was prescribed a five-year show-cause period, during which he “must show cause why he should not have restrictions on athletically related activity.”

The school met with the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Nashville, Tenn. in August to answer for allegations made against widespread academic fraud. The school received the report from the committee on Friday morning.

Since sending North Carolina a Notice of Allegations in May 2015, the NCAA had revised it twice, with a third version of the notice coming last December, which included an improper benefits charge that was not part of the second notice.

A former U.S. Justice Department official looked into the African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department and found that independent study-style courses were misidentified as lecture courses and estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes across several sports, including members of the football and men's basketball teams, accounted for half the enrollment.

A former learning specialist said that workers in the school’s tutoring program were steering athletes to take paper classes so they could remain eligible to compete and sued the school claiming was retaliated against and received a demotion for her whistleblowing.

At least four people were fired as result of the scandal after the report came out.