An NCAA Committee on Infractions ruled Friday there wasn't enough evidence to support charging the University of North Carolina with academic violations after allegations the school ran "paper courses."
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, who served as the chief hearing officer for the UNC case, released a statement about the panel's decision.
"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," he said. "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 report continued:
"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. North Carolina said the work was assigned, completed, turned in and graded, often by the former secretary, under the professor’s guidelines. While the university admitted the courses failed to meet its own expectations and standards, the university maintained that the courses did not violate its policies at the time.
The panel also did not conclude, based on the record before it, that extra benefits were provided to student-athletes. The panel noted the former secretary credibly explained during the hearing that she treated all students the same."
Andrew Carter of The Charlotte Observer provided statements from Williams, head football coach Larry Fedora, AD Bubba Cunningham, and head women's basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell:
UNC Chancellor Carol Folt also spoke about the news, per News and Record's Brandon Wilkerson:
Carter commented on the ruling:
Darren Rovell of ESPN spotlighted the school's financial commitment to the case:
Chris Chavez of Sports Illustrated previously noted North Carolina was facing "five top–level charges" for courses that allowed students to "get high grades in bogus classes." The scandal allegedly included 3,100 students over two decades of existence.
The NCAA alleged 47 percent of the individuals involved were student-athletes with football, men's basketball and women's basketball making up 68 percent of the athletes who benefited from the classes, per Chavez.
In April, longtime UNC head basketball coach Roy Williams said following the Tar Heels' victory over Gonzaga in the national title game he hoped the issue would eventually go away.
"I wish it got no attention, but I know it's out there," he told reporters. "The last three or four years have been very hard. I told you, people have questioned my integrity, and that means more to me than anything. I know that we did nothing wrong. I know that I did nothing wrong. I've been investigated 77 times, it seems like. And everybody came to that conclusion. But there were some mistakes made at my university that I'm not happy about either.
"I used to say that I hoped that it was over with before I retired. Now I'm saying I hope it's over with before I die."
Friday's ruling came less than 12 hours before the Tar Heels men's basketball team takes part in its annual "Late Night with Roy" season kick-off event at the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill.