Recently, the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) responded to the amended Notice of Allegations it received in April from the NCAA. This is UNC's first chance to make a formal argument in this long drawn out investigation.
The NCAA's enforcement staff accused UNC and three former employees of five Level I violations in the amended NOA. The most serious charge is the lack of institutional control. Ultimately, it's the responsibility of individuals within the athletic and academic administrations on college campuses to identify and investigate fake classes/courses (AFAM).
Since there was no mention of the men’s basketball and football programs in the NOA, one can only speculate what will occur once UNC appears before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in late October.
In 2014, the University of North Carolina paid $3.1 million for an independent investigation, led by Kenneth Wainstein and his team of attorneys; UNC attorneys felt that those interviews conducted by the investigation team didn’t follow NCAA standards.
According to Dan Kane (News and Observer-Raleigh NC), Joseph Jay, the lead lawyer on Wainstein’s team, said the investigation’s goal was simply to get to the bottom of what had happened, not to identify potential NCAA violations. There was no discussion of using the NCAA’s interviewing requirements.
“Nobody ever gave us direction one way or another,” Jay said. “They just said do the investigation the best way you know how.”
UNC is being represented by former NCAA official Rick Evrard and Bob Kirchner (Bond, Schoeneck & King-Syracuse NY), and I'm sure the cost associated with the hire is in the millions. With the lucrative television payouts and a plethora of revenue to share for Power 5 conference schools, this could lead to more resistance directed towards the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in the near future.
Although UNC isn't denying that fake classes were made available for some student-athletes, strategically emphasizing that it involved non-athletes as well and should be addressed by the university’s accrediting agency, annoyed their critics.
Did this promote accountability or evasion? Only UNC's academic and athletic administrators can truly answer this, but I think it's a perfect defense strategy, especially when it could possibly affect millions from being generated by revenue producing sports. (Football-Basketball)
Although providing fake courses for student-athletes should be considered an impermissible benefit, in this situation, the NCAA's jurisdiction to impose sanctions remains debatable.
Due to the Jerry Sandusky child-molestation scandal, the NCAA imposed heavy sanctions on Penn State's football program in 2012. Many felt that the NCAA overstepped their jurisdiction and in September 2014, the organization settled with the university, restoring football scholarships and lifting the ban on bowl games. Also, in January 2015, the NCAA agreed to restore 112 victories taken away from the program. You may debate the comparisons, but I think you get my point.
Although the majority of FBS Power 5 conferences can afford to hire high profiled law firms to represent them in similar situations, that isn't always the case for non-power 5 conference schools. Big money can and will always find creative ways to fight back and that's why UNC has been successful thus far against the NCAA.
The revenue generated by many storied college basketball and football programs allow many coaches and administrators to live comfortably; some will do whatever it takes to keep the cash flowing.
As it pertains to "The Big Bank Theory", all's fair in love and war. So far, it appears that UNC is winning this battle.
Recently, a Temple University study examined penalty consistency of NCAA infractions. The research found that conference membership generally has no influence on severity of penalties.
Please keep in mind, the data analysis used for this research is from 1953-2014. Autonomy didn't begin for the Power 5 conferences until fiscal year 2015.