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The NCAA's confusing position on enforcement is even confusing the NCAA

From ESPN - October 13, 2017

The NCAA had an opportunity to punish North Carolina for allowing its student-athletes to benefit from sham classes that required little coursework, had no oversight and featured a department secretary giving out favorable grades.

But instead, the Committee on Infractions refuted everything its own enforcement staff charged, shrugged its collective shoulders and dismissed it all as an academic matter.

In hindsight, this all seemed so predictable, given what the NCAA has become: an entity lacking any credibility in its enforcement process. Through three separate notices of allegations and written notices between the NCAA and North Carolina, there is clearly a deep disconnect between the way the enforcement staff, and ultimately the committee, viewed what happened with North Carolina.

In July 2017, the NCAA enforcement staff wrote forcefully that, "This case is not about so-called fake classes or easy courses. ... Nor is this case about NCAA review of classroom curriculum."

On Friday, committee chair Greg Sankey disputed that core argument when he said the NCAA must defer to universities and their academic policies.

Rather than look squarely at the academic policies, the enforcement staff chose to focus its charges on benefits student-athletes received that were "materially different" from the general student body -- about special arrangements made for student-athletes to be placed in these classes, where they were sure to get an A or a B and stay eligible.

This is the definition of "impermissible benefits." And though Sankey admitted that North Carolina student-athletes "more than likely" received "fraudulent credit" for taking paper classes in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies, and that North Carolina personnel "more than likely" used the courses to "purposely obtain and maintain student-athlete eligibility," the NCAA found it could do nothing.

That's because these courses in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies were available to the general student population over an 18-year period.

How two groups under the NCAA umbrella could come to such radically different conclusions is eyebrow-raising. So is this: In the second notice of allegations North Carolina received, the impermissible benefits charge was removed. After a preliminary hearing last October, Sankey asked the enforcement staff to revisit the charges once again.

The impermissible benefits charge appeared again in the third notice last December.

Yet, none of that mattered.

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