Rob Dauster

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

NCAA infractions panel could not conclude academic violations in North Carolina case

9 Comments

If the NCAA’s investigation into North Carolina were a college student, it would have graduated a semester early.

On Friday morning, three-and-a-half years – and three Notices of Allegation – after the NCAA opened an investigation into alleged academic impropriety by the North Carolina athletic department and seven years after investigators first began looking into the UNC football program, we finally got an answer.

The NCAA infractions panel could not conclude that North Carolina committed academic violations. What the panel found was two violations: “the former department chair and a former curriculum secretary failed to cooperate during the investigation.”

That’s it.

“While student-athletes likely benefited from the so-called ‘paper courses’ offered by North Carolina, the information available in the record did not establish that the courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes,” said Greg Sankey, the panel’s chief hearing officer and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. “The panel is troubled by the university’s shifting positions about whether academic fraud occurred on its campus and the credibility of the Cadwalader report, which it distanced itself from after initially supporting the findings. However, NCAA policy is clear. The NCAA defers to its member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred and, ultimately, the panel is bound to making decisions within the rules set by the membership.”

The NCAA was unable to determine whether or not academic fraud occurred at North Carolina due to an NCAA principle that states that individual member schools are responsible for policing themselves. It is on the school itself to determine if academic fraud is happening on their campus.

Beyond that, the NCAA also determined that the paper classes were not impermissible benefits.

“While student-athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body,” said Sankey. “Additionally, the record did not establish that the university created and offered the courses as part of a systemic effort to benefit only student-athletes.”

The panel also determined that North Carolina did not fail to monitor or lack institutional control over the athletic department.

The NCAA charged North Carolina with five Level I violations, including a lack of institutional control, although none of the coaches at the school – including Roy Williams – were charged with any wrongdoing.

The focus of the investigation were independent study-style courses in the African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. They were identified as lecture classes, but the classes didn’t actually meet. They only required a research paper or two, and the NCAA alleged that the typically high grades were used to keep athletes eligible.

Former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein released an independent investigation into the scandal, and by his estimate more than half of the 3,100 students that enrolled in those course from 1993-2011 were Tar Heel athletes.

The football program was sanctioned in March of 2012 in the NCAA’s initial case, but in the summer of 2014, the investigation was reopened. North Carolina received the first Notice of Allegations in May of 2015, with subsequent NOA’s arriving in April and December of 2016. The main difference in the three was how the NCAA viewed some of the academic issues. Initially, they were considered improper benefits – access to courses and assistance in those courses not available to regular students – but that charge was removed in the second NOA only to be refiled in the third.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction in this matter. They contend that this is a school issue, one that should be handled by its accreditation agency – they already hit the school with a year of probation. UNC’s argument, which will likely be the crux of their appeal, is that the NCAA is overstepping their jurisdiction. The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC also argued that athletes did not receive special treatment since the classes were open to the public while challenging the number of athlete enrollments Wainstein came up with. He counted athletes who were no longer team members. The accurate figure is less than 30 percent, the school said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

UNC finally set to learn ruling in NCAA academic case Friday

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

North Carolina is finally set to learn its fate in a multiyear NCAA academic case.

The NCAA infractions committee panel handling the school’s multiyear academic case plans to release its ruling Friday at 10 a.m., three people with knowledge of the investigation said. The people said the NCAA notified parties involved in the case Thursday morning. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because neither the school nor the NCAA have commented publicly on the release.

It will be a long-awaited moment for both the school and NCAA, which had investigators first arrive on campus more than seven years ago in a football investigation that ultimately spawned this case focused on irregular courses featuring significant athlete enrollments.

While a ruling could provide resolution, the delay-filled case could still linger if UNC pursues an appeal or legal action in response to potential penalties that could include fines, probation, postseason bans or vacated wins and championships.

The ruling comes roughly eight weeks after UNC appeared before the infractions panel in August in Nashville, Tennessee, for a two-day hearing that included Chancellor Carol Folt, athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, football coach Larry Fedora and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell. The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control, though no coaches are charged with wrongdoing.

In an email to the AP, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the NCAA would send out a media advisory on the morning of an announcement but had “nothing further to share before then.” UNC spokeswoman Joanne Peters Denny declined to comment in an email, referring questions to the NCAA.

The focus is independent study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department on the Chapel Hill campus. The courses were misidentified as lecture classes but didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for 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, with athletes across numerous sports making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

After sanctioning the football program in March 2012 in the original case, the NCAA reopened an investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in May 2015, revised them in April 2016 and again in December.

The NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes. The NCAA removed that charge in the second Notice of Allegations (NOA), then revamped and re-inserted it into the third NOA.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority and that the NCAA was overreaching in what should be an academic matter .

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

The infractions panel is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

MEAC Preview: Morgan State, Todd Bozeman to return to the dance?

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Beginning in September and running up through November 10th, the first day of the regular season, College Basketball Talk will be unveiling the 2017-2018 NBCSports.com college hoops preview package.

Today, we are previewing the MEAC.

Over the course of the last five years, Levelle Moton has built North Carolina-Central into the flagship program of the MEAC.

The Eagles have won the league’s regular season title in four of the last five years and reached the NCAA tournament twice during that stretch, including last season. And who knows, maybe Moton will be able to work his magic with this group again, but considering that all five starters and seven of the eight players from NC-Central’s rotation last season graduated this summer, it’s hard to imagine the Eagles repeating as league champs.

On paper, the favorite this year looks to be Morgan State. The Bears not only return the best 1-2 punch in the conference, but that duo – wing Tiwian Kendley and big man Philip Carr – also happen to be the only two returning first-team all-conference players. With just a single rotation player out the door due to graduation, Todd Bozeman has a team that should make a run at returning to the NCAA tournament.

Losing Jonathan Wade is a major blow for Norfolk State, who finished a game off of the league title pace a season ago, but Zaynah Robinson is a sparkplug at the point and should finish this season as a first-team all-league player, if not the best lead guard in the conference.

Hampton will be in the mix as well. They finished tied for third in the league last season despite a roster that was mostly freshmen and sophomores. Sophomore guard Jermaine Marrow is one of the best young talents in the MEAC. Savannah State lost Troyce Manassa but returned everyone else, including Dexter McClanahan.

MORE: 2017-18 Season Preview Coverage | Conference Previews | Preview Schedule

PRESEASON MEAC PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Tiwian Kendley, Morgan State

Kendley was the leading scorer in the MEAC last season, and that likely won’t change this season. What will change, however, is that Kendley won’t be playing on a team that finished third in the conference, as the Bears are projected to win the league.

THE REST OF THE PRESEASON ALL-MEAC TEAM

  • Zaynah Robinson, Norfolk State: The Spartans lost their leading scorer from a year ago, so expect Robinson’s numbers to see a boost.
  • Jermaine Marrow, Hampton: Marrow will be the guy that pushes Robinson for the title of best leadu guard in the MEAC.
  • Dexter McClanahan, Savannah State: McClanahan’s returns is the biggest reason that SSU will be relevant in the league race.
  • Philip Carr, Morgan State: He was the best big man in the conference last season. The only reason he isn’t the best returning player in the league is because Kendley is back as well.

PREDICTED FINISH

1. Morgan State
2. Hampton
3. Norfolk State
4. Savannah State
5. NC-Central
6. Maryland-Eastern Shore
7. Bethune-Cookman
8. Delaware State
9. South Carolina State
10. Florida A&M
11. Howard
12. North Carolina A&T

NCAA to release ruling in UNC case Friday

Christian Petersen/Getty Images
4 Comments

The NCAA infractions committee panel handling North Carolina’s multi-year academic case plans to release its ruling Friday, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

The people said the NCAA notified parties involved in the case Thursday morning. They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the school nor the NCAA have commented publicly on the release.

The ruling comes roughly eight weeks after UNC appeared before the infractions panel in August in Nashville, Tennessee, for a two-day hearing that included Chancellor Carol Folt, athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams, football coach Larry Fedora and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell. The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control.

While a ruling could provide resolution, the delay-filled case could still linger if UNC pursues an appeal or legal action in response to potential penalties that could include fines, probation, postseason bans or vacated wins and championships.

In an email to the AP, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the NCAA would send out a media advisory on the morning of an announcement but had “nothing further to share before then.”

UNC spokeswoman Joanne Peters Denny declined to comment in an email, referring questions to the NCAA.

The focus is independent study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department on the Chapel Hill campus. The courses were misidentified as lecture classes but didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for 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, with athletes across numerous sports making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

The oft-delayed case grew as an offshoot of a 2010 probe of the football program resulting in sanctions in March 2012. The NCAA reopened an investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in May 2015, revised them in April 2016 and again in December.

The NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes. The NCAA removed that charge in the second Notice of Allegations (NOA), then revamped and re-inserted it into the third NOA.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority and that the NCAA was overreaching in what should be an academic matter.

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

The infractions panel is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter @aaronbeardap

Report: USC, Arizona, Auburn all received grand jury subpoenas

AP Photo
2 Comments

Yesterday, news came down that Oklahoma State had been given a subpoena on September 27th by a grand jury from New York, and the speculation was that the other three schools that had seen a member of their coaching staff get arrested had also received subpoenas.

A report from the LA Times on Thursday confirmed that suspicion.

The Times also added some detail into what was taken at USC:

USC has turned over computer data used by Tony Bland, the associate head coach facing charges that include soliciting a bribe and wire fraud, in addition to those of head coach Andy Enfield and assistants Jason Hart and Chris Capko, according to two people with knowledge about the situation who spoke on the condition they not be identified because of the ongoing legal proceedings.

On Wednesday night, the Daily Kansan reported that a Freedom of Information Act request regarding any documentation that the FBI has regarding Adidas and Kansas was denied because those documents were part of an “investigative file exempt from disclosure.”

Kansas maintains that they have not had any contact with the FBI.

College Hoops Contender Series: Three more (flawed?) Final Four favorites

AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall
Leave a comment

Who are the favorites to win a national title? Who can legitimately be called a contender? Who has the pieces to make a run to the Final Four? We’ll break that all down for you over the next three weeks in our Contender Series.

Last week, we gave you our Final Four sleepers. Today, we talk (more) Final Four contenders.

To me, there is a clear-cut line between the teams ranked in the top four or five and the rest of the top 25. Duke probably should be ranked No. 1 in your preseason poll, but their question marks at the point guard spot and the youth on the roster are enough that I can see two teams arguably being ranked above them.

I also think there is another clear-cut tier of teams, through the top 12, that are good enough that they are a decent bet to get to the Final Four in San Antonio while being flawed enough that we cannot consider them a true title contender, at least not in October.

Two of those teams are known as football schools and currently find themselves stuck in the middle of one of the biggest scandals in college sports history: Miami and USC. A third, Wichita State, has yet to play a game as a member of a high-major conference. Let’s take a dive into those three teams, shall we?

RELATEDPerry Ellis All-Stars | Final Four Sleepers | Louisville | Villanova | West Virginia

Markis McDuffie (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

WICHITA STATE

This year will be a first for Wichita State.

Five years after Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet led the Shockers to the 2013 Final Four, five years after Gregg Marshall’s club became a stalwart in the top 25 and a nationally-recognized program, Wichita State is now officially a high-major basketball team.

The Shockers officially left the Missouri Valley this summer, becoming a member of the American and, instantly, the favorite to win the league this year. Because after a season where Wichita State finished 31-5 and ranked 8th nationally, according to KenPom, the Shockers brought back everyone.

Landry Shamet, who is a darkhorse all-american pick, is back for his sophomore year. Markis McDuffie, who is probably the best all-around player on the roster, is back for his junior year. Fifth-year senior Connor Frankamp rounds out the back court while Darral Willis, Zach Brown, Shaq Morris and Rashard Kelly are all back along the front line.

The Shockers are loaded with precisely the kind of players you would expect a Gregg Marshall-coached team to be loaded with: Underrated back court talent, big and old and physical posts, and a roster full of players that are going to grind you down defensively.

More importantly, they’re already proven to be successful. We know they’re good. They won 31 games a season ago! They finished the year ranked 8th in KenPom! Everyone is back!

The difference is that this season, instead of playing in the Missouri Valley, where computer numbers get pulled down and the Shockers end up as a No. 10 seed — one of the worst mis-seedings in NCAA history — they will be playing American competition. Games against the likes of Cincinnati, SMU, UConn, UCF and Houston will do a lot more for their tournament profile than Indiana State and Missouri State did.

Assuming the Shockers are as good as they should be, they’ll be seeded fairly this year, meaning that they won’t be playing a team as talented as last year’s Kentucky team was until at least the Sweet 16.

And that is what makes them such an intriguing Final Four pick.

The issue, however, is health, and it’s no small problem. Shamet had surgery in early August to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. A similar injury kept him on the shelf for much of the 2015-16 season. Shamet is expected to return to the floor by the start of the season, which is good news, but there’s no guarantee that, coming off of a surgery and an injury that kept him out for three months, that he’ll be in shape and on form immediately.

Shamet is also not the only player that is injured. McDuffie, who led the team in scoring and rebounding a year ago, has a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his left foot. That’s the same bone that derailed careers of many an NBA player, including Joel Embiid. He’s expected to be out until December, meaning there is a possibility that Wichita State begins the season without their top two players.

If those two are both back and healthy come March, it’ll be something of a moot point.

But there’s no guarantee that will happen.

MOREThe Enigma of Miles Bridges | NBC Sports Preseason All-American Team

Bruce Brown (Al Bello/Getty Images)

MIAMI

Everyone say it with me now: The second-best team in the ACC this season will be Miami.

Not Louisville. Not North Carolina. Not Notre Dame or Virginia or Syracuse.

Miami.

And the biggest reason why is a young man that you’ve probably never heard of. Bruce Brown, a former safety and wide receiver at the high school level, still plays like a football player now that he’s fully committed to the hardwood. He’s an aggressive slasher, an athletic finisher and one of the best perimeter defenders in the country. He’s also now a guy that can operate in pick-and-rolls and knock down a spot-up jumper, and playing for a coach in Jim Larrañaga that has thrived with talented lead guards and athletic wings, he’s the perfect combination of both.

He’ll also be flanked by a couple more players of that ilk in senior JaQuan Newtown and freshman Lonnie Walker. Newton had a good, not great, junior season for the Hurricanes, but part of the reason for that was due to Brown’s emergence down the stretch. Walker is a top-15 prospect that picked Miami over the likes of Arizona and Villanova. He’ll be an instant impact guy assuming his knee is healthy.

Throw in sophomore center Dewan Huell, a former five-star recruit in his own right, four-star freshmen Chris Lykes, a 5-foot-7 point guard, and Deng Gak, a 7-foot four-man, and there is a lot to like about the pieces Larrañaga has at his disposal.

There is also a lot missing with one piece they lost from last season: Davon Reed. A physical, athletic, 6-foot-6 wing, Reed was one of the most underrated players in the ACC a season ago. An elite defender with three-point stroke that went down at a 40 percent clip, Reed was everything a team needs in the day and age of positionless basketball. He could guard three or four positions, he could space the floor and, if need be, he could pop off for 2o points on any given night. There’s a reason he was the No. 32 pick in the NBA Draft.

That’s going to be a massive hole to fill, and the Hurricanes are going to hope junior Anthony Lawrence can replace him.

I’m not sure that he will be able — Reed was a helluva player — but it may not matter.

Larrañaga is at his best when he has talented, dynamic lead guards paired athletics bigs, and there is no questioning that this year’s roster construction fits that mold.

Every few years, Larrañaga pops up with an ACC title contender. It happened when Shane Larkin and Durand Scott manned his back court. It happened with Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan. And it will happen with this group as well.

What we will need to track, however, is the status of the FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball. A Miami assistant coach was referenced in the FBI complaints on a phone call involving two of the men that were arrested. The assistant, according to an Adidas executive, was hoping to get the shoe company to fund a $150,000 payment to the family of a prospect that appears to be Nassir Little.

None of the Hurricane coaches were arrested on September 26th, but that doesn’t mean their out of the woods, in the eyes of the FBI or in the eyes of the NCAA.

 Big Ten Preview | ACC Preview | Atlantic 10 PreviewMountain West Preview

Jordan McLaughlin (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

USC

The season has been three years in the making for the Trojans has a black cloud the size of California hanging over it.

Andy Enfield’s tenure with Dunk City West started out dreadfully, amassing a grand total of five Pac-12 wins in his first two seasons at the helm. Things started to turn around during his third season, when the Trojans, without a senior on their roster, climbed their way into the NCAA tournament. Last season was supposed to be their year, but the combination of injuries and a pair unexpected defections to the professional ranks meant that Enfield, again, would be without a senior.

And again, USC made a run to the NCAA tournament, getting out of the play-in game and pulling off an upset of No. 6 seed SMU.

Now, finally, is the year for USC.

The Trojans are loaded. They have experience — their starting back court of Jordan McLaughlin and Elijah Stewart are both seniors and both potential all-Pac-12 guards. They have size — Bennie Boatwright and Chimezie Metu, both juniors, are NBA prospects while Nik Rakocevic, Harrison Henderson and Shaqquan Aaron give Enfield the kind of depth and positional versatility his style of play calls for. De’anthony Melton, Jonah Mathews and Charles O’Bannon provide the young, dynamic talent in the back court, and that’s before you factor in Derryck Thornton, the former Duke point guard that was once thought to be among the best high school point guards in the country.

The last time there was this much reason to be excited about USC basketball, O.J. Mayo landed on Tim Floyd’s doorstep.

On the court, the question mark with this group is two-fold:

  1. Can they defend? In each of the last two seasons, USC has ranked outside the top 80 on KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric. That, quite simply, is not going to be good enough for a team that is planning on competing for a Pac-12 title, let alone a national title.
  2. Is everyone going to buy-in? This may be a bigger concern than the defensive side of the ball. The Trojans don’t have the kind of star power on their roster that you’ll see at UCLA or Arizona, but the depth of their talent is impressive. There are seven or eight players on the roster that have a shot of playing in the NBA. At least five of them flirted with the idea of leaving school early to enter last year’s NBA Draft, meaning that there are going to be quite a few guys on this roster looking to impress NBA scouts. Not all of them are going to be able to get as many shots as they might like. Convincing players that want the be a star to embrace playing a role is the hardest thing to do at this level, and Enfield is going to have his work cut out for him.

Off the court, however, is a bigger problem.

Tony Bland, an assistant coach for USC, was arrested during the FBI’s sting operation investigating corruption in college basketball. He was alleged to have been paid $13,000 in bribe money to get two players currently on the USC team to work with a specific financial advisor when they get to the NBA. He also helped facilitate $9,000 that was supposed to go to the families of an unnamed freshman on the team and an unnamed sophomore.

Those players have not yet been positively identified, but there should be some concern as to whether or not those kids will actually be eligible to play this season.

I’m not sure there are five teams in the country that are going to be more talented than USC this season if they have all their pieces available. But until we get answers on how they are going to defend, who is going to be asked to play what role and who is going to be able to play, it’s going to be hard to know if they actually are Arizona’s biggest challenger in the Pac-12.