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UNC set to move past academic probe, not celebrating ruling

From FOX Sports - October 13, 2017

North Carolina can move forward, closing one of the most embarrassing chapters in the schools history now that the long-running NCAA academic case has ended with UNC facing no penalty.

Still, even with what had to be the best possible outcomea weight being lifted that has loomed over the Chapel Hill campus for yearsschool officials greeted the news more with cautious relief than exuberance.

This isnt a time of celebration, chancellor Carol Folt said Friday in a conference call with reporters.

The NCAA said an infractions committee panel determined it could not conclude there were academic violations by the school in the scandal focused on irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments.

The school had faced five serious chargesincluding lack of institutional controland the possibility of major sanctions such as postseason bans or vacated wins and championships. Yet the case full of starts, stops and twice-rewritten charges reached a best-case-scenario conclusion with the panels Friday report.

I think its important to understand the panel was in no way supporting what happened, said Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, the panels chief hearing officer. What happened was troubling. And I think thats been acknowledged by many different parties. But the panel applied the memberships bylaws to the fact.

Albeit at times positions shifted and we were skeptical of positions taken, the panel couldnt conclude violations. Thats reality.

Ultimately, the panel said it found only two violations: a failure-to-cooperate charge against two people tied to the problem courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department.

Former AFAM chairman Julius Nyangoro faces a five-year show-cause penalty through 2022 in what amounts to the sole penalty imposed in the case. Nyangoro had refused to interview with NCAA investigators after the case was reopened in 2014.

The other person, retired AFAM office administrator Deborah Crowder, initially refused interviews but reconsidered and interviewed with NCAA investigators in May as well as attended the schools hearing with the panel in August. Crowderwho had enrolled students, distributed assignments and graded many of the papers in the courseswas not punished, but the NCAA said it is making note of her initial lack of cooperation.

Elliot Abrams, Crowders attorney, said in a statement the ruling affirms her account that she treated all students equally. Bill Thomas, Nyangoros attorney, declined to comment to The Associated Press.

North Carolina also faced an improper-benefits charge tied to athlete access to the problem courses, while former professor and academic counselor for womens basketball Jan Boxill was charged with providing improper help on assignments.

Sometimes the behavior that youre not proud of just doesnt quite fit into a bylaw or a rule or something, and thats what weve been talking about for five years, UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said. Were not proud of the behavior but we didnt think it violated the bylaw, and today the Committee on Infractions revealed to us that they came to that same conclusion.

Michael L. Buckner, a Florida attorney who has worked on compliance cases, called it definitely a best-case scenario for UNC.

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