Devon Ramsay had the backing of his mother—and that was probably all it took.
However, UNC and Robert Orr, a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice, also played a part in what appears to be one of the few successful interventions in NCAA history.
With Ramsay suspended from the team for eight games and UNC potentially denied the results of those games due to his presence, the NCAA was convinced that the emails they had showed nothing more than normal academic counseling rather than academic cheating.
UNC football may not face much of a penalty for the academic counseling phase if this shows the type of evidence they are relying on.
It will be recollected that the Tweeting group of athletes who traveled and partied with the best of college athletics were punished only after they revealed the few thousand dollars' worth of presents and possible travel benefits they had received from one or more agents seeking clients after most of their senior years.
Some were permanently barred from college football. Among those are at least two first-round draft choices, and possibly as many as four. That's a heck of a hit for any college football team.
A new investigation was started as a result of the first one into impermissible gifts to UNC athletes from agents. The principal focus of this investigation was help given by UNC tutor Jennifer Wiley to UNC football and other athletes that showed she may have written papers for them.
This is clearly academic cheating, providing grounds for expulsion by UNC and its student council and allowing the NCAA to declare athletes permanently ineligible to play for UNC. Ramsay was declared ineligible because of evidence of being helped by Wiley.
It turns out that the assistance received from Wiley was perfectly acceptable. Ramsay asked for her advice concerning a paper, something all students do with tutors. She did not write the paper. Her advice was found on further review not to have constituted a violation at all.
Of course, Ramsay, a very good student, was forced to suffer the ignominy of being tagged a cheater and facing expulsion and permanent ineligibility. These accusations were and will remain bad for him as a person and as a mark against him for a long time.
Yet one has to believe that UNC's competitors, especially Rutgers and Ohio State, which garnered a few New Jersey players who were considering UNC, used the investigation as an excuse. Furthermore, had they been able to consider the situation further, they may have decided differently, although that is probably very unlikely.
The cloud of investigation continues. Where this will end is anyone's guess. Yet after this good news, it is hard to accept that the academic issues will trump the agent issues. In addition, while failure to monitor is a distinct potential finding, the sense around here is that UNC will not face crippling penalties. After all, this is a first offense, and UNC has cooperated fully.
Finally, if a coach like Bruce Pearl can tell Tennessee recruits to lie about clear NCAA violations and merely be fined, how can this kind of player activity, which was and is clearly against UNC policy and enforcement, be grounds for any severe penalty?