No significant penalties for UNC in NCAA's long-awaited report on academic scandals

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The NCAA has announced that the infractions committee panel handling North Carolina's multi-year case will release its public report Friday morning.

Ultimately, the NCAA found that there were only two violations - two former staff members failed to cooperate during the investigation.

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.

At its core, the case involved allegations that North Carolina provided student-athletes with extra benefits through special access and course assistance, including heavy involvement from the former department chair and a former curriculum secretary.

"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, chief hearing officer for the NCAA panel that looked into the charges.

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It's a long-awaited step for both the school and NCAA.

The investigation centered on a system in which a significant percentage of student-athletes took classes that had academic irregularities - and whether that resulted in those athletes receiving an impermissible benefit. The panel appreciated the former secretary's eventual cooperation and said that her participation at the hearing benefitted the panel's ability to decide the case.

The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control, though no coaches are charged with wrongdoing.

While a ruling could provide resolution, the delay-filled case could still linger if UNC pursues an appeal or legal action in response to potential penalties that could include fines, probation, postseason bans or vacated wins and championships. They only required a research paper or two, and the NCAA alleged that the typically high grades were used to keep athletes eligible.

The courses were allegedly created to keep student-athletes eligible. "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". UNC argued, in turn, that the availability of the classes to non-student-athletes meant it did not specifically benefit athletes. It also challenged Wainstein's estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

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