"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 exclusively created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes", SEC commissioner and Committee on Infractions chairman said in a statement. "Since 2014, the NCAA membership has acknowledged the question whether academic fraud occurred is one appropriately answered by institutions based on their own academic policies".
"A singular principle allowed UNC room to make its claims and, ultimately, limits the panel's ability to conclude that academic fraud occurred", the Public Infractions Decision said. The irregularities are focused on independent study-style courses misidentified as lecture classes that didn't meet and required a research paper or two while featuring significant athlete enrollments. The allegations also included tutors writing papers for student athletes for class credit and having others complete "take home tests". The athletes were reportedly guided into the classes to help remain academically eligible.
The report said fraternity members may have another incentive to take the courses besides a normal student desire for easy As.
"Based on the general availability and the lack of specific examples, the panel can not conclude a systemic effort to impermissibly benefit student-athletes", it said.
UNC fans cheer at a Tar Heels basketball game.
UNC was charged with a "lack of institutional control" resulting in violations of bylaws governing extra benefits to athletes and ethical conduct. Still, Syracuse and head coach Jim Boeheim were punished significantly, at least by NCAA standards, while North Carolina got off free on a jurisdictional argument. Men's basketball coach Roy Williams, women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell and football coach Larry Fedora, in addition to athletic director Bubba Cunningham and chancellor Carol Folt - were all in attendance. The NCAA's enforcement unit first began investigating academic impropriety at North Carolina as far back as June 2010. The basketball program won two NCAA championships during that time period.
According to investigator Kenneth Wainstein's report, the "paper courses" were "hardly a secret" on campus and predominantly spread by word-of-mouth among undergraduates.
The other person, retired AFAM office administrator Deborah Crowder, initially refused interviews but reconsidered and interviewed with NCAA investigators in May as well as attended the school's hearing with the panel in August.
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