The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

UNC AD Bubba Cunningham to NCAA: "Follow the Bylaws"

UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham spoke with reporters following the release of the second amended notice of allegations on Thursday.

Opening comments:
“As many of you know, we have worked collaboratively with the NCAA enforcement staff for more than two years. We’re not going to speculate on the merits of the case, but I can talk about the process, and we believe that the process has gotten off track and we have serious concerns about that. Here’s how: in October we participated in a Committee on Infractions hearing about procedural and jurisdictional issues. And to my knowledge, that’s the only time a specific hearing on procedural and jurisdictional issues has ever occurred. Before that hearing, we submitted two letters that reflected a key part of the dialogue between the university and the enforcement staff. That’s important because we felt that the second notice of allegations issue in April fairly aligned the facts of our case with the appropriate NCAA bylaws and case precedent.

"The committee chair denied the university’s opportunity to include these two letters in the record the panel would consider as evidence in the October hearing. In the letter we released today, the committee then cited the absence of the very same evidence in the instructions it gave to the enforcement staff to revisit the second notice of allegations. That means the university was deprived the opportunity to submit evidence in the case record and the committee used the lack of evidence against us. Our outside counsel has written a letter to the chair of the Infractions Committee raising concerns about the NCAA’s process that has led to this third notice. The university’s letter to the Infractions Committee’s chair said that key evidence previously denied for consideration by the panel must be made part of the case record. We insist on fair and consistent treatment in this process. We’re concerned that the Committee on Infractions and the NCAA staff have not been consistent in how they apply bylaws and follow process in our case.”

You mentioned the unprecedented nature of the procedural hearing. Is there any precedent for a hearing panel or its chairman to act in the way they did of encouraging the enforcement staff to rewrite the notice of allegations?
“Not to my knowledge. I’m not aware of that. I do think the hearing itself is unprecedented. I do know that the committee has a wide range of latitude in a hearing on the merits, but I don’t have any idea what their latitude is in a hearing that’s never, in my mind or knowledge, occurred before. I think it makes it really difficult for any institution that’s going to face a group that can act as the investigator, the prosecutor and the judge. I think it’s patently unfair and I think we need to consider it, not just in this case, but on the national basis, this entire infractions process.”

Did the Committee on Infractions give you a reason for not accepting the letters?
“No. I think that would be a question not for me. I don’t have a reason. I can only speculate and I probably shouldn’t do that. We weren’t the only ones that made a request for additional documentation to be included, but we were denied.”

What recourse do you have now?
“We’re going to follow this process through to the very end. We have been investigated more than anybody… We’ve been as open and transparent as you can possibly be... We continue to follow the process. And basically all I’m suggesting is that they follow the same process. We’re held accountable to the standards and when they violate the process, I don’t know what the remedy or our recourse is, but I’m certain we’re going to explore every one of them because I think we owe it to this institution and we owe it to the other members of the association. You can’t chase things just because you have an opinion. You’ve got to follow the bylaws. That’s what we’re held to, and we’re expecting everyone else to live to those.”

What do you think the NCAA’s driving force is behind this actions?
“It would be inappropriate for me to speculate on what they’re thinking or how they’re operating. I can only talk about the process of the case and I can only talk about my experience in intercollegiate athletics. But I will say that I have seen recently that the NCAA has chased after some other schools and went outside of their own process, and that hasn’t worked out very well. I don’t want them to do that again. Just as they’re trying to hold us accountable to the membership, it’s our responsibility to hold them accountable to the membership as well. We all have to live by the bylaws and constitution that is part of this association.”

When you went to this procedural hearing, was it your understanding they were only trying to decide if they had a right to rule, and not that it would open you up to another notice of allegations?
“Yes. Our documentation says that we were there just to hear the procedural claims of the case, not the merits of the case. And when I read the Nov. 28 letter, I think that we’ve slipped beyond the jurisdictional issues.”

Do you have any feel as to how much longer this thing might go on?
“I really don’t. We were issued a third notice of allegations on Dec. 13 and typically we’d have 90 days to respond to that and they’d have 60 days to reply to our response and then you go before the committee. But nothing in this case is typical.”

Do you anticipate taking the full 90 days to respond?
“It’s probably premature for me to answer that. Given the nature of this case being so unpredictable, I think we need to be really thoughtful and determine how we want to respond. Based on what I’m reading, the standard of evidence apparently has been reduced by the committee, so we may want to introduce additional information that meets this lower standard that they’ve now introduced.”

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