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Report: NCAA ‘anticipates’ hearing UNC case in mid-August

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Today, the AP churned out a story on Greg Sankey’s involvement with the NCAA’s investigation into the academic scandal at North Carolina, and buried within that story is this little nugget:

UNC must respond to the latest charges by May 16. The NCAA enforcement staff then has until July 17 for its own response. Sankey wrote that his panel will hear the case in August with “anticipated” dates of Aug. 16 and 17.

Rulings typically come weeks to months later.

We’ve been down this road before, as the current iteration of the Notice of Allegations is the third that the NCAA has provided the university. The first was given out back in May of 2015 for an investigation that began back in 2010.

AP Exclusive: SEC’s Sankey refuses to step down in UNC case

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey has denied a request seeking his removal as head of the NCAA infractions panel handling North Carolina’s ongoing academic case because of a conflict of interest.

Sankey stated in an April 14 letter obtained by The Associated Press that the panel would “fairly decide this case.”

“The panel, including me, will hear and decide this case based on the case record and the membership’s bylaws,” Sankey wrote to all involved parties.

Elliot Abrams — a Raleigh attorney representing a retired office administrator charged with violations — had written the NCAA saying Sankey had a “personal, professional and institutional interest” in the outcome as SEC commissioner while comparing it to “refereeing a championship game between an (Atlantic Coast Conference) team and an SEC team.”

UNC faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control, in the multiyear probe centered on irregular courses in an academic department.

The case stalled in March after Abrams wrote the NCAA to say his client, Deborah Crowder, was willing to talk with investigators for the first time. Crowder, who graded many of the papers for problem classes, filed an affidavit defending the courses’ quality.

In his letter last week to the NCAA, Abrams said a third Notice of Allegations outlining revised charges against Crowder and UNC should be tossed out as the result of “inappropriate pressure from a conflicted hearing panel.” He also said an “arbitrary” April 14 deadline for Crowder’s interview wouldn’t allow adequate preparation for questions about years-old documents.

Sankey responded that Crowder’s interview should occur in coming weeks within the new schedule, adding: “There will be no further delays, and the case will be heard on this schedule.”

Sankey also referenced “misstatements of facts” in Abrams’ letters while reiterating investigation details must remain confidential.

“The NCAA claims that no appearance of a conflict of interest exists and that the hearing panel did not direct the enforcement staff to issue the third Notice of Allegations,” Abrams said in a statement to the AP. “Interestingly, the NCAA attempts to keep these assertions from public view, even though its letter is plainly a public record.

“These positions intensify our concerns that the NCAA does not feel bound by its bylaws and that this process is merely a show designed to reach a predetermined result. Nevertheless, Ms. Crowder looks forward to correcting the record by giving an interview in the next few weeks.”

The NCAA Committee on Infractions issued a statement Friday to the AP on Friday saying that “committee composition is appropriate.”

“Rules put in place and supported by our membership call for confidentiality in infractions cases and the continued leaks of partial and inaccurate information in this case are disappointing,” the committee stated.

In an email to the AP, UNC spokeswoman Joanne Peters said the school will make its case to the panel according to the NCAA’s schedule.

Sankey’s letter also details a new timetable of completion for the oft-delayed case. UNC must respond to the latest charges by May 16. The NCAA enforcement staff then has until July 17 for its own response. Sankey wrote that his panel will hear the case in August with “anticipated” dates of Aug. 16 and 17.

Rulings typically come weeks to months later.

The focus of the case 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.

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, revised them last April and again in December.

In his April 4 letter seeking Sankey’s removal, Abrams cited the “appearance of partiality” from an NCAA conflicts-of-interest bylaw. Abrams added Sankey could be a witness regarding an Auburn case featuring similarities while Sankey was an SEC associate commissioner. The NCAA investigated claims a sociology professor helped athletes stay eligible through independent studies in 2005 and 2006 but found no major violations.

Abrams later sought details of communication between the NCAA and former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein during Wainstein’s 2014 AFAM investigation. Crowder cooperated with that probe, which estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes across numerous sports accounting for roughly half the enrollments.

In his letter, Sankey responded that saying he “previously investigated (an SEC) institution on an academic matter” was inaccurate but didn’t address the Wainstein inquiry.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

VIDEO: Check out Zion Williamson’s insane mixtape

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Zion Williamson isn’t the No. 1 player in the class of 2018 — that title would belong to Marvin Bagley III — but he is the greatest show in AAU.

Why?

Because he does the things that you see in the video above.

The April live recruiting period starts today, which means you should expect to see quite a few highlights of Williamson’s theatrics over the coming days and weeks.

NCAA considering significant changes to the college basketball calendar

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The fact that college basketball is one of the only sports without a recognizable and celebrated opening day has been an issue that has bugged critics of the sport for a long time.

Change could be on the way.

The Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee discussed the potential for changing the start date for college basketball games, moving it up from the second Friday in November to the Tuesday before the second Friday in November; three days earlier.

“The men’s college basketball community has been discussing the possibility of establishing a uniform start date for the sport,” the NCAA wrote in a statement. “Many believe it can create a less compressed schedule, particularly for nonconference games, which they believe would benefit student-athlete well-being by providing more time for rest and recovery.”

It’s also worth noting that the committee is considering creating a mandatory mid-season break. “Committee members also discussed standardizing the playing season to 21 weeks with a mandatory three- or four-day break for the student-athletes at some point during their school’s winter vacation period,” the NCAA said.

The real story, however, is the NCAA’s effort to create a college basketball opening day. It would be a nice change, particularly if the games are played midweek, but the bigger issue would be putting together games that would actually make opening night worth watching. As it currently stands, the de-facto starting point for the college basketball season is the Champions Classic, a showcase that features four of the biggest brands in the sport playing a double-header that caps a 24-hour college basketball marathon. It’s game like that — Duke vs. Kentucky, Kansas vs. Michigan State, North Carolina vs. Indiana, etc. — that need to be played on opening night to drive interest.

If all we end up getting is a bunch of high-major programs beating the hell out of overmatched mid-major teams no one cares about, the day that season starts isn’t going to matter.

Because no one is going to care.

Johnny Dawkins suing former employer Stanford for $7 million

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UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins is suing Stanford, his former employer, for more than $7 million, according to the Mercury News, who obtained the complaint.

At issue is Dawkins’ buyout from Stanford. It’s worth $2.3 million, but Stanford has yet to pay him a dime of the buyout.

Why? From the paper:

According to court documents, Dawkins agreed to release any claims (financial or otherwise) against Stanford upon his dismissal. In exchange, the university agreed to pay him $2.3 million and drop the mitigation provision in his contract — future earning would not be used to offset his lump-sum payment from Stanford.

Subsequently, the document states, Stanford reversed course and said it was entitled to withhold future earnings (i.e., Dawkins’ compensation from UCF) from the amount owed to him.

In other words, Dawkins is saying that Stanford agreed to pay him his money and then backtracked when he get the job with UCF.

Dawkins is suing for that $2.3 million, plus $5 million in damages.

Did Memphis actually lose a recruit to a Division II school?

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I cannot get enough of the drama going on in Memphis.

A quick recap: Six of last year’s top eight players have decided to transfer out of the program. That includes both of the Lawsons — Dedric and K.J., the stars of the program — who made the decision to move to Kansas. Their father, Keelon, was once an assistant with the program, but he was demoted and taken off the road when Tubby Smith was hired, and his decision to leave the Memphis program jeopardizes whether or not Memphis will have a chance to land the top three high school talents in the city, all of whom are either a son or a nephew to Keelon.

And then there is K.J. Lawson, who tweeted “Two middle fingers as I exit” and was caught on video yelling “F— Tubby” on his way out the door.

All of this is happening at a time where Smith is trying to rebuild the program and reinvigorate the fan base.

Which brings us to last night, when Matt Stanley committed to Ouchita Baptist, a Division II school in Arkadelphia, a town in Arkansas that is probably best described as the midway point for someone driving from Texarkana to Little Rock.

Why is this random, Division II commit relevant when talking about Memphis?

Because depending on who you ask, he chose Ouachita Baptist over Memphis. According to the Stanley family, Matt had a scholarship offer, one that they have in writing. The staff will tell you that, no, there was never a scholarship offer. Both sides have obvious reasons to stick to their guns here, and the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, with a healthy dose of miscommunication mixed in. Maybe Memphis offered a full-ride. Maybe they simply offered a walk-on spot with a shot to earn a full-ride and the family took that as an offer. Maybe Memphis really did pursue the kid until they were roundly clowned for trying to replace a potential all-american in Dedric Lawson with a Division II player.

But the truth doesn’t really matter at this point.

The story is out now, and no amount of backtracking or clarifying is going to change the fact that the public at-large believes that a team that recruited Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans and came within a couple of missed free throws of winning a national title just nine years ago is losing recruiting battles to Ouachita Baptist.

You can’t control the damage once it’s already done.