"When a member institution fails or refuses to take action after receiving actual notice of problems involving student-athletes, thereby allowing violations to compound and to continue for years, it is the NCAA's business".
"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", said Greg Sankey, the panel's chief hearing officer and commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, in the release.
"The panel noted that its ability to determine whether academic fraud occurred at UNC was limited by the NCAA principle relying on individual member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred on their own campuses".
Since 2014, investigators have been looking into a course, which was formerly called African and Afro-American Studies.
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The infractions panel is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
While the classes were open to all students at North Carolina, athletes were often steered their by academic advisers who knew they were easy courses and athletes populated the classes at a higher rate than the general student body. Almost half of the thousands of students who took the classes over the years were athletes. And after winning the 2017 men's college basketball championship, it's poised to earn even more.
The NCAA's investigation has dragged on for 3 1/2 years, in part, because the specifics of the scandal present somewhat bedeviling facts, as they relate to NCAA rules.
In its defense, North Carolina asserted the case was not within the NCAA's jurisdiction and that non-athletes had access to the same courses.
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In addition to the allegations brought by the enforcement staff, the panel also considered whether academic fraud violations occurred due to the nature of the case, the university's initial adoption of its accrediting agency's characterization of academic fraud and the information uncovered in the outside Cadwalader investigation.
Both football and basketball could receive postseason bans and the loss of scholarships.
That case followed sanctions imposed on the UNC football team after a 2010 investigation, and since reopening the investigation in 2014, the NCAA has revised charges against the university's athletic department multiple times. Athletics academics counselors and football coaches held a meeting in which a PowerPoint presentation explained the importance of the African and Afro-American studies classes in keeping football players academically eligible.
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