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The NCAA issued yet another response in its convoluted back-and-forth with the University of North Carolina over the institution’s response to UNC’s sham Afro-American Studies department, which funneled athletes through paper classes.

The latest entry in the saga comes from Sept. 19 letter, made public today, sent to UNC by the NCAA’s director of enforcement. This letter was a response to UNC’s claim that the NCAA couldn’t crack down on the school for teaching sham classes because the issue concerns the academic side of the university and not athletics. In addition to the NCAA’s response, UNC also released a recent batch of correspondence between the university and NCAA, all of which can be found here on UNC’s website.

In its official response, the NCAA made plain that the university’s August letter will not deter its infractions committee from plodding forward:

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The institution argues that “The NCAA’s constitution and bylaws do not extend to matters related to academic structure, content, and process on a member institution’s campus.” The enforcement staff agrees. The functions identified by the institution are reserved to the sound of discretion of the academic academy, its leaders and its accrediting agency. The amended notice of allegations does not suggest otherwise. If the allegations are read closely, it is evident that the enforcement staff has no desire to challenge the institution on how academic departments are managed, even if managed poorly. Instead, each allegation in the amended notice of allegations is tethered directly to athletics and how the unmonitored athletics department used anomalous courses in a manner different from the general study body in violation of NCAA rules.

The NCAA’s argument is that because athletes had unique access to the benefits provided by administrators and professors within UNC’s AFAM department, the school’s recent response that such a widespread case of academic misconduct would be out of the NCAA’s jurisdiction is invalid. To support its case against the school, the NCAA cited and included copies of university emails showing correspondence between administrators favoring the academic needs of the athletes, interviews conducted with UNC employees, and the statistic that 47.4 percent of the students to enroll in the paper classes were athletes.

The NCAA rebuked the school’s argument that charging UNC with lack of institutional control, the worst of the charges lobbed at the university, would be outside the statute of limitations, writing that “willful violations” can result in exceptions to the statutes. The NCAA also rejected the school’s assertion that it had access to and could have reviewed all the same information being brought forward now back in 2010-11, a claim the NCAA wrote was “without merit” given the fact that the roll out of documents related to the case has come in waves, due to the multiple investigations and the availability and willingness of involved persons who spoke with NCAA authorities.

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With all the responses now accounted for, the NCAA Committee on Infractions will hold a previously scheduled private preliminary meeting Friday—such meetings don’t normally take place during standard investigations, but given the scope of this case, it was deemed necessary. The process is now in the hands of the committee, which will determine whether the NCAA has the procedural grounds to move forward with an infractions hearing and if it can use information from the Wainstein Report.

As a reminder, the school and three former employees will potentially face the following five charges:

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  • Lack of institutional control by not busting up the AFAM department sooner.
  • The university failed to monitor its academic support program for athletes and AFAM department.
  • Jan Boxill, a former UNC professor, helped out the women’s basketball team by doing their homework and quizzes.
  • Deborah Crowder, an administrator in the Afro-American Studies department, didn’t cooperate with the NCAA’s investigation, therefore violating their ethics code.
  • Julius Nyang’oro, the head of the AFAM department, also allegedly violated the NCAA ethics code by not cooperating.

If the NCAA committee rules in favor the NCAA, the institution would likely hold the infractions hearing sometime within the next four months or so; theoretically, a decision would be announced six to eight weeks from then. In all likelihood, this entire shitshow will outlive us all.