It seems like every few weeks new thoughts of doubt and negativity (regarding UNC’s impending penalties) crop up. People start to say that they think UNC will escape without punishment… that the men’s basketball team won’t get hit at all… and so on. Essentially, they buy into the PR message that UNC has PAID MILLIONS FOR and spread throughout the media --- but which happens to also be a message that is factually incorrect.
This post will attempt to show why that message is incorrect, and hopefully stop the pointless, defeatist thoughts. (on this board, at least)
Perhaps it can educate others along the way, as well – including members of the national media who have been, for whatever reason, lax to do proper research on the topic.
-- There are multiple factors that all play into one conclusion: UNC is going to be handed down some very weighty sanctions at some point in the near future, and in multiple sports – with men’s basketball being one of the sports at the center.
When the NCAA delivered its Notice of Allegations to the school the document included five Level I infractions, including the NCAA’s most serious accusation, Lack of Institutional Control. This is important for various reasons (which will be detailed in the “loss of scholarship” discussion, below).
“It has been mentioned in various media outlets that ‘UNC basketball was not accused of anything in the NOA’.”
Basically, that statement is a lie. Or, more specifically, it represents misinformation and/or laziness that is a direct result of UNC’s paid PR endeavors. The professional media/TV representatives who repeat that erroneous statement are displaying a LACK of proper research and fundamental reading skills, and are doing a disservice to their profession.
So what is the truth?
The fifth Level I accusation in the NOA clearly states:
“The AFRI/AFAM department created anomalous courses that went unchecked for 18 years. This allowed individuals within ASPSA to use these courses through special arrangements to maintain the eligibility of academically at-risk student-athletes, particularly in the sports of football, MEN’S BASKETBALL, and women's basketball.”
“Some talking heads have also said/written that ‘Roy Williams was not named in the NOA’.”
Again, this is a PR talking point.
No, Williams wasn’t named (amongst the five official infractions) – but Wayne Walden, his academic advisor of several decades and spanning two different schools, is widely represented in the multitude of supporting-evidence-emails. And Williams, like many other coaches who have been hit by NCAA sanctions over the past two years, “should have known” what was going on in his program. This is a stance long maintained by the NCAA in such cases.
And none of the talking heads who have said that (paraphrased) “Roy Williams wasn’t in the NOA” have no idea as to the contents of the dozens of personal interviews that the NCAA conducted – because UNC redacted all of those interviews before publicly releasing the NOA.
“Will men’s basketball suffer any repercussions once sanctions are handed down?”
Their PR message has been “no”. In the kindest way of putting it, they are being willfully ignorant as to the facts.
As mentioned earlier, men’s basketball is clearly listed as being a beneficiary of impermissible benefits for nearly a full decade. Based on historical, current, and supplementary information, there is no way the men’s basketball program will escape sanctions.
“Okay, so what sanctions might men’s basketball face?”
-- Vacated wins.
NCAA bylaws are very clear on this matter. Once a player is deemed (retroactively) ineligible then any game in which he/she participated is retroactively forfeited by the school.
The NOA covers the years of 2002 through 2011. The NCAA will use a very simple and non-arbitrary process: determine which players received impermissible benefits, and what semesters were affected. Cross-reference that information with those players’ athletic participations. Using that data, any games in which an ineligible player participated will be forfeited.
Again, this is not an opinion process; this is not a jury-decision where back-and-forth discussion will have to take place. It is clearly outlined in the NCAA’s bylaws, and has been followed in virtually every NCAA infractions case over the past decade.
UNC men’s basketball (among several other sports) will end up vacating dozens of wins between the years of 2002 and 2011 – which includes the Championship years of 2005 and 2009.
“The NCAA spared Syracuse’s 2003 National Championship – so they will somehow find a way to let UNC skate during 2005 and 2009, and allow UNC to keep their two titles, as well.”
This is simply incorrect logic due to a lack of facts, and here is why:
Syracuse’s stated years of infractions (based on the NOA that the NCAA gave that school) did not cover the year 2003; it began with 2004.
Both of UNC’s two most recent National Championships ARE covered in its NOA.
If ONE ineligible player participated during either/both of those seasons (2005 and 2009), then those games (including the National Championships, if applicable) will be forfeited.
“Will there be scholarship reductions?”
This is another case where NCAA bylaws become a valuable tool – and specifically the rules governing the Committee on Infractions.
The COI has its own rulebook, so to speak.
Section 4-16-3 of the COI bylaws states that “hearing panels shall prescribe scholarship reductions as a core penalty when a panel concludes that an institution or involved individual committed one or more Level I or Level II violations.”
UNC has been accused of not one – but five – Level I infractions. Assuming that AT LEAST one of those five infractions remains intact following UNC’s response to the NOA, then based on the NCAA/COI bylaws the offending sports will suffer scholarship losses moving forward. The amount of scholarships (and the total years of duration) will be an arbitrary decision of the specific COI panel hearing UNC’s case.
As a point of reference:
Syracuse basketball lost 12 basketball scholarships over four years.
SMU basketball lost nine basketball scholarships over three years.
Both of those schools’ overall penalties will be discussed in more detail later.
“What about fines, payback of post-season monies, etc.?”
These are arbitrary decisions and are too hard to speculate at this point. However, other cases from the past two years that are somewhat similar to the UNC case (yet much smaller in scope in terms of the weight of infractions) have included such fines.
Both Syracuse and SMU had to return monies and faced fines; that info is detailed later.
“What about suspension and/or show-cause of coaches?”
Same as above. Arbitrary, but a look at similar cases would hint that a suspension for the coaches of the affected programs is a distinct possibility.
Jim Boeheim and Larry Brown’s specific situations will be discussed in more detail later.
“Why wasn’t UNC charged with academic fraud, especially since Wainstein determined that most of those classes were fake?”
-- This gets into various legal aspects of the case. In short, the NCAA finds itself in the middle of several impending court cases, and it must prepare itself for those eventual litigation situations. Much has been posted about those cases, so it will not be rehashed in detail here.
But essentially: By charging UNC’s athletes with impermissible benefits (as opposed to academic fraud), the NCAA not only hopes to protect itself in future litigation, but it also makes it virtually impossible for UNC to defend/appeal against the allegations. Based on the wording of NCAA rules and bylaws, it is 100% clear that UNC provided hundreds of athletes with impermissible benefits.
“Why does the NOA only go back to 2002? The Wainstein report shows that there were fake classes well into the early/mid 1990’s, and maybe even the late 1980’s.”
-- Again, it comes down to what the NCAA can A.) easily prove, while B.) also sticking with impermissible benefits, as opposed to academic fraud (which they are trying to avoid using/stating).
“What effect did it have when Julius Nyan’goro and Debby Crowder refused to speak with the NCAA, which then lead to two additional Level I infractions for UNC?”
Nyan’goro and Crowder were given the opportunity to speak with the NCAA to try and refute some of the (overwhelming) evidence that points to fraud/benefits from 2002 to 2011. They chose not to. Why not? The obvious conclusion is that they could not refute it.
On the flip side, they likely had a lot of information and personal-experience stories that would have ALSO put many of the earlier years in the crosshairs of fraud: 1992 (when Nyan’goro rose to a position of prominence) through 2001, and possibly even earlier. (Crowder joined the department in 1979.)
In short, Nyan’goro/Crowder talking to the NCAA could have only hurt UNC – so there is little wonder why they did not speak. The NCAA’s enforcement staff obviously came to the same conclusion, as well, which is why those two additional Level I infractions were levied.
“What about all of the other rule-breaking that was covered in the books Tarnished Heels and Cheated?”
-- Yet again, it partially comes down to what the NCAA can prove in a practical and legally-affordable manner.
Cheated covers some of the pre-2001 years, and the reason for that omission from the NOA has been referenced above.
In the case of Tarnished Heels, many (but granted, not all) of those “unanswered question” issues still fall during the timeframe that the NOA already covers.
While critics of the NOA’s brevity may definitely have a point by saying that the information in those two books should be more fully represented in the NOA, they should also know that both of those books reportedly played a very major role in eventually pointing the NCAA (and prior to them, Wainstein) in the right direction.
These two books – with their collection of overwhelming factual accuracy – essentially negated much of UNC’s early PR efforts.
“UNC is going to try and buy off the Committee on Infractions panel.”
-- Some facts:
There are 24 members of the overall Committee on Infractions. None of them have a clear-cut tie to UNC. There are several who are connected to other ACC schools; if any sort of conflict of interest appears likely, then those members are instructed to remove themselves from consideration for the (smaller) UNC panel. And along those lines, ANY member who feels he/she cannot be completely fair in the proceedings is supposed to (based on COI bylaws) excuse him/herself from panel consideration. These members’ professional reputations are on the line.
Next, there is a specific COI handbook bylaw that deals with “attempted university contact” with COI members:
Section 4-5 deals with “Ex Parte Communication to the COI”.
It states in part that “… (university) parties shall not communicate directly with committee members regarding investigations and pending cases.”
Because of this, UNC (and/or any connected representatives) would run a very substantial risk to even attempt to contact the potential panel members in an effort to try and sway opinion. Likewise, a committee member who was contacted by the university would be wise to excuse him/herself from consideration, lest it later be found out (by the NCAA) that such contact was kept quiet and they were ultimately a part of the UNC panel.
More on that last point: The COI panel that will ultimately hear UNC’s case (and decide on the penalties) will consist of between five and seven members (usually six). However, all 24 members of the panel have already been given all of the information on the case – the NOA, the supporting documents, etc. – all of which was given to the COI members in its un-redacted format.
This further lessens the chances of a light sentence (read: a paranoid-fueled, “bought off” penalty) being handed down, because the other 18 members of the COI (who are not on the six-person UNC panel) would also be aware of UNC’s overall (un-redacted) infractions, and most certainly would bristle should an inappropriate set of penalties be prescribed.
Questions would undoubtedly be raised. Again, these members’ professional reputations are on the line.
“What happened to Syracuse and SMU, the two more recent (big) occurrences of infractions, and how do those cases compare to UNC’s allegations?”
When compared to UNC’s infractions, both the Syracuse and SMU cases were much smaller in scope, longevity, and especially in the number of athletes involved.
Furthermore, when taking the contents of the NOA’s Supporting Evidence/Exhibits pdf, UNC also had many more (university) staff members who took a part in impermissibly aiding the school’s athletic programs.
In short, UNC’s infractions are worse than those of Syracuse and SMU.
The following are some of the penalties that Syracuse and SMU received. (Again, these schools committed lesser infractions based on the NCAA’s own methods of distinction.)
-- Head coach Jim Boeheim is suspended for nine games at the start of the 2015-16 season.
-- 108 basketball victories were vacated where it was determined that an ineligible player participated.
-- The men’s basketball program is losing 12 scholarships over the upcoming four years.
-- The men’s basketball program has two years of recruiting restrictions.
-- The men’s basketball program self-imposed a one-year NCAA tournament ban. ** See note below.
-- Five years probation
-- Multiple fines
-- Must return revenues from recent NCAA tournaments
-- Head coach Larry Brown is suspended for 30% of the games in the 2015-16 season.
-- Various wins are vacated from the 2013-14 basketball season.
-- The men’s basketball program has a one-year NCAA tournament ban.
-- The men’s basketball program is losing nine scholarships over the upcoming three years.
-- Three years probation
-- Multiple fines
-- Recruiting restrictions
-- At least one other sport was penalized.
** Note: UNC has not self-imposed anything since the release of the Wainstein Report and its damning evidence.
“Why do UNC’s coaches (Roy Williams and Larry Fedora, primarily) continue to tell recruits that their respective sports are in the clear? (and all the while, UNC continues to sign solid players)”
Basically, there is little downside to those coaches’ tactics. Is it immoral and wrong to the young men who are signing to play at UNC? In my opinion, yes. But my opinion doesn’t make the school (or those coaches) as much money as college athletics.
** Assuming that the NCAA does not allow players to transfer without penalty once sanctions are announced…**
… then any players who sign with UNC prior to the sanctions being handed down are locked in with the university. (lest they choose to transfer and sit out a year)
This is UNC’s way of trying to stock the cupboard in an attempt to weather the eventual storm, so to speak.
Furthermore, any potential scholarship reductions will NOT affect classes/players where players have already signed their Letters of Intent.
For example: if UNC loses three basketball scholarships a year for four straight years, but they have already signed several players in the 2016 class – then the scholarship reductions would not begin until 2017. (This is straight out of the NCAA handbook/bylaws.)
So in part, Williams and Fedora (and other coaches) are trying to get as many players committed (and more specifically, signed) prior to sanctions – so that they will not be affected by the scholarship reductions.
And then the university is gambling that the NCAA will not allow the players to transfer without penalty.
Again, there is little downside to this tactic – as long as you’re able to overlook the obvious moral deficiency that is being employed by the school and its coaches.
Recruits and their families are obviously being misled, no matter how semantic UNC wants to get with the wording of the recruiting pitch being peddled by its various coaches.
Has the NCAA been noticing these PR tactics, and the comments that UNC’s coaches have been making to recruits – recruits who have then signed with the school? And if so, will that in any way sway the NCAA’s eventual penalties regarding the allowance of players to transfer?
… We’ll just have to wait and see.
I will try and edit the above information if/when deemed necessary. Please continue any commentary on the topic via the regular thread on this topic.
The above is a just-the-facts representation of the situation thus far. There are many other supplementary factors involved in this case (and the eventual penalties), many of which are behind the scenes. They have been mentioned in previous posts, but have been omitted from this one. This post serves a different purpose.
Having said that...
Strong opinion: none of those supplementary factors are working in UNC’s favor.