The most striking thing to come from the announcement that the NCAA will revive its investigation of North Carolina wasn't the news itself. It's that it wasn't perceived as news at all.
In fact, no one—besides a handful of North Carolina brass breaking back into the bourbon it only recently tucked away—seemed to care. Perhaps it's because we're sanctioned-out, or perhaps our perception of the investigated (or the investigators) is so skewed, so far gone, that we no longer know how to feel when handed matters like this.
We are, in many ways, numb to the process, for better or for worse. Make no mistake about it, however; this is news. Or, at least it used to be.
The original investigation into UNC—which began in 2011—centered on academic misconduct. The fallout from Round 1 of the NCAA's involvement included a postseason ban for the 2012 football season, vacated wins, a reduction of 15 total scholarships and three years of probation (which the school is still serving).
The university also took on the academic criticism head-on, launching an independent investigation focused on the "academic irregularities." Ken Wainstein, a former federal prosecutor, recently provided an update on the ongoing investigation, a reminder of sorts that it is a work in progress and will be free of university influence when completed.
Even before it was able to peruse Wainstein's final report, however, the NCAA announced on Monday that it was reopening its investigation in a statement released on the NCAA website.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, was cited by the Division I Committee on Infractions in 2012 for violations in its athletics program, including academic misconduct. As with any case, the NCAA enforcement staff makes clear it will revisit the matter if additional information becomes available. After determining that additional people with information and others who were previously uncooperative might be willing to speak with the enforcement staff, the NCAA has reopened its investigation. The enforcement staff is exploring this new information to ensure an exhaustive investigation is conducted based on all available information. The NCAA will not comment further to protect the integrity of the investigation.
This surprising revelation hit social media mid-Monday. After a flurry of tweets from college football writers and fans, discussion hit a wall shortly after. The update that the NCAA would conduct a major investigation into a major program came and went without causing more than ripple.
Regular programming resumed.
Two years ago, when we were less numb to the process, that wouldn't have been the case. When news of the Miami, Ohio State and USC sanctions hit the wire—and the NCAA stuck its flag in the ground to say it would stay a while longer—the sporting world stopped spinning on its axis.
Granted, these were high-profile teams, and the issues featured high-profile players. Yahoo Sports' lengthy investigation into the Hurricanes' copious amount of program disobedience read more like a feature film than a few years with a football team.
But over time, regardless of the severity, our intrigue in these cases has slowly faded. And the Miami situation, in many ways, could be the catalyst for our disinterest.
It took the NCAA 798 days to reach a decision on sanctions following Charles Robinson's detailed report. In that time, information had to be tossed after the organization obtained it illegally, and it had to launch an investigation into its own investigation. This undoubtedly hindered the time and delivery of the decision.
Miami applied some self-imposed sanctions on itself while it waited—most notably, sitting out two bowl games—and the NCAA basically offered up a "you're good" when it was finally down with its assessment.
That case has single-handedly altered the way we view enforcement. The NCAA, by its own admission, realizes a dramatic overhaul is necessary on the front. President Mark Emmert alluded to this very notion on the stand when he testified in the Ed O'Bannon lawsuit a few weeks ago. This lawsuit, which could alter collegiate athletics in its entirety, is also playing a role in our response.
After a stretch of turbulent PR, why should we care about another enforcement case when the NCAA is seemingly fighting for its life in court? The stakes have changed, the tables have turned and college athletics' governing board is viewed profoundly different than it once was.
While the situation at Chapel Hill could turn nasty if once-quiet voices decide to speak up, recent history tells us that nothing is a given. After all, here we are, ready for another cycle with North Carolina. It's the lack of defined checkmarks that make this difficult to comprehend.
But perhaps it's something more, something we can't truly define. It's not as if we endorse academic wrongdoings. These are serious allegations on the spectrum of university misconduct, certainly more so than the wide-ranging "violations" that have been addressed in recent years.
It's that we're simply tired of caring.
The infraction cases are exhausting, regular reminders of the flaws in the sport and an overall lack of procedure. Instead of emotionally investing ourselves in the unsettling details, it's become much easier to push it aside, keep far away from behind the curtain and wait for actual football.
This callous, wave-the-white-flag approach is a product of overexposure. We've been handed an industrial-sized serving of Novocain, and the effects simply haven't worn off.
From the players, to the schools, to the fractured system watching over it all, the press releases and press conferences are no longer newsworthy. They are almost assumed.
We should be more interested in the latest developments at North Carolina, and perhaps—eventually—we will be. For now, however, we'll go about our football lives, business as usual, waiting for the actual games to return.
It's what we've been trained to do.
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