CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The University of North Carolina has challenged the legitimacy of the NCAA’s Amended Notice of Allegations in its response released on Tuesday, claiming the document does not conform to the NCAA’s constitution and bylaws.
The response details a laundry list of specific bylaw parameters that the NCAA enforcement staff has potentially infringed upon, from the organization’s self-imposed statute of limitations to previous binding decisions carrying over to the current notice, which equates to a dizzying amount of compliance lingo. The basic argument, however, is clear: UNC believes the NCAA is outside of its jurisdiction when it comes to the school’s academic irregularities in the African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department.
“The Amended Notice of Allegations refer to core academic issues of course structure, content, and administrative oversight that are beyond the scope of authority granted to the NCAA by its members,” the response reads. “Such matters concern fundamental issues of institutional and academic integrity, not athletics compliance, and the University has addressed them with its accreditor. They are not the proper subject of an NCAA enforcement action.”
UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham did not waver from that perspective during his teleconference to discuss UNC's release on Tuesday afternoon.
“It is a jurisdictional question,” Cunningham said. “For many, many years, we have presidents on the counsel, we have faculty athletics reps on the counsel. Each and every time, we look at, what is the role of the NCAA relative to academics? They stay out of it. They don’t want the NCAA in the classroom, nor do I think they should be.”
Should the Division I Committee on Infractions dismiss UNC’s claims of the NCAA operating outside of its jurisdiction, the university also followed traditional NOA response procedures in addressing each of the five allegations. The institution challenged three Level I NCAA allegations, including its most serious charge of lack of institutional control.
While accepting that Jan Boxill, former women’s basketball athletic academic counselor, provided impermissible academic assistance to women’s basketball players in 15 of the 18 instances in Allegation 1, UNC disagreed that she engaged in unethical conduct by knowingly providing extra benefits. The response suggests the allegation be treated as a minor Level III violation.
The university detailed why jurisdictional and procedural issues should bar Allegation 4, yet accepted if the request for dismissal was denied that it failed to monitor Boxill, noting the failure amounted to a Level II, not Level I, violation.
UNC also disagreed with Allegation 5, in which the NCAA charged the school with a lack of institutional control. UNC’s response indicates the NCAA should defer to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) on the matter of academic irregularities. SACS lifted UNC’s yearlong probationary status in June.
The university agreed with Allegations 2 & 3 detailing the refusal of Julius Nyang’oro, the former chairman of the AFAM department, and Deborah Crowder, the former student services manager in AFAM, to participate in the NCAA investigation.
Cunningham said his compliance staff was not quite ready to make a determination regarding any potential self-imposed penalties and preferred not to speculate on the topic.
The NCAA announced in June 2014 it was reopening its 2011 examination of academic irregularities in the African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. UNC received its initial notice of allegations in May 2015 before reporting new information last August that warranted an amended notice.
The NCAA enforcement staff now has 60 days to reply to UNC’s response and produce a statement of the case, which will serve as basis for the scope of the Committee on Infractions hearing - which at this point is tracking to be held in October, according to sources. The final infractions report, which will include any potential penalties, could arrive in Chapel Hill before the end of the year -- if the NCAA sticks to its stated timeline. NCAA enforcement process guidelines indicate infractions reports are typically delivered 6-to-8 weeks following an institution’s COI hearing, but UNC had to wait 19 weeks for its final verdict in March 2012.