UNC Scheduled For August Hearing In NCAA Academic Case

Jul 26, 2017

North Carolina is scheduled to appear before an NCAA infractions committee panel next month in its multiyear and oft-delayed academic case.

Responding to records requests, UNC on Tuesday released a June 9 letter from the NCAA setting Aug. 16-17 for the hearing in Nashville, Tennessee. The letter requests that men's basketball coach Roy Williams, football coach Larry Fedora and women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell attend.

Williams and Fedora aren't charged with a violation — Fedora wasn't working at UNC during the time in question — but their programs are referenced in a broader improper benefits charge. Hatchell isn't charged either, but a former professor and academic counselor for women's basketball is cited for providing improper assistance on assignments.

"It is standard practice for the current head coaches of programs referenced in a Notice of Allegations to attend," UNC spokesman Joel Curran said in a statement.

Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey had targeted the August dates in an April letter that laid out a new case timeline while denying a request seeking his removal as head of the hearing panel due to a conflict of interest.

UNC faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control, in a case tied to irregular courses on the Chapel Hill campus. A ruling typically comes weeks to months after a hearing.

The school's document release also included a 50-page filing by the NCAA enforcement staff, a procedural step that followed the school's May response to the most recent version of charges.

UNC has previously challenged the NCAA's jurisdiction, saying it was an academic matter and not an athletic one. But the NCAA's July 17 filing stands firm that it has jurisdiction and that athletes received extra benefits through special access to the courses.

"The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA's business," the document states, adding later: "In sum, it is an NCAA matter when other member schools who choose not to provide impermissible benefits are disadvantaged by their commitment to compliance."

The NCAA also accuses UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham of a violation by sharing "case-related information with the media" during a February interview with CBS Sports. Cunningham was critical of the NCAA's handling of the case in that interview and said it had "overcharged" the school.

The enforcement staff said it "notes" the matter for the hearing panel to consider but didn't formally amend the charges to avoid additional delays.

The case is an offshoot of a 2010 probe into the football program. The NCAA reopened its investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in May 2015, and revised them in April 2016 and again in December.

The focus is independent study-style courses misidentified as lecture classes that didn't meet and required a research paper or two in UNC's formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. They featured significant athlete enrollments and typically high grades.

In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011. He estimated athletes made up roughly half the enrollments, though UNC has argued Wainstein counted athletes who no longer were members of a sports team when they took the course.

NCAA spokeswoman Emily James declined to comment in an email because it is an ongoing case.