Friday night the Dean Dome will be filled with students and fans for the annual basketball kick-off event known as "Late Night With Roy." The festivities will likely begin with a celebration of the 2017 NCAA national title and a whole lotta joy. When we heard the COI report was to be released Friday morning, the mood changed. Would it be a party atmosphere, or more like trying to find hope and happiness at a funeral? No one educated about the ins and outs of the AFAM scandal saw this coming:
"A Division I Committee on Infractions hearing panel could not conclude that the University of North Carolina violated NCAA academic rules when it made available deficient Department of African and Afro-American Studies “paper courses” to the general student body, including student-athletes."
So, what did we learn?
What we failed to see in all of this, is the true purpose of the NCAA. SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, who heads up the Committee On Infractions, summed it up thusly: “...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.”
In other words, The NCAA is, as established, a solely athletics regulation body. The bylaws were written by its members, or representatives thereof, and do not give it authority in the classroom. This, I have to feel, was by design. It being an unintended consequence, just seems too coincidental.
The other takeaway from the three-year boondoggle could be that the NCAA’s sole purpose is to maintain the facade that is the term “amateur student athlete.” The NCAA will flip its lid if a Georgia football player can make some extra scratch on the side selling autographs, or if a coach takes a player to lunch. However, when the schools benefit from keeping players eligible (thereby winning more game and making more money for the NCAA/school’s coffers) by falsifying a higher GPA, nothing is done.
UNC Chapel Hill was clearly giving extra benefits to student-athletes. But, because they were among a larger number of non-athlete students also getting a free pass, it can’t be proven that it was a system specifically designed to help athletes. That would be a NCAA rules violation. Otherwise, this is an issue for an accreditor to address, not the NCAA. It’s just as UNC’s lawyers had argued.
The NCAA made the right call. By right I mean they acted within their boundaries. They stayed in their lane.
What is morally right, is a different story. The school clearly cheated. They clearly used players to win games, who would have been ineligible under any system that fostered fairness. The NCAA arm simply does not reach into the classroom enough to be effective or hold schools accountable.
I think we all should be glad that they realized it before dragging this thing out through a lengthy, and unwinnable, court battle. In retrospect, maybe the decision released by the COI Friday is a much quicker way to advance the anti-NCAA movement. By just ripping off the Band-Aid and admitting they are out their element on this one, more people are calling for change.