Academic scandal leads to probation for UNC

UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham is currently preparing a response to the NCAA. (USATSI)

Big news hit the University of North Carolina on Thursday: The board of Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges (SACS) slammed the school with probation. It’s a powerful, rare move from an accrediting organization.

So while the university prepares its response to a potentially landmark investigation and punishment from the NCAA, the entity partly responsible for helping fund the school with federal money just handed down its own harsh punishment. The probation will last for a year, and the reason it’s come about is strictly due to the academic fraud ignominy that’s remained in the headlines over the past few years.

It’s a major sanction for the oldest public university in the United States of America. It’s an embarrassing hit, both in terms of public relations and for actual, tangible resources.

According to the News & Observer, seven standards set forth by the SACS were not met by UNC.

“It’s the most serious sanction we have,” Belle Wheelan, president of SACS, said in the N&O’s report.

The scope of the scandal at UNC spans nearly two decades and more than 3,000 former students — more than half of them former players — who were enrolled in bogus or effortless classes in the African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) division at the school.

Last week UNC made public the five major allegations put forth by the NCAA in its Notice of Allegations against the school. The NCAA went with the “impermissible benefits” route when laying out its case against the school but also hit the athletic department with an allegation of lack of institutional control.

As for UNC and SACS, the school had been wobbling on probation and other action in recent years, according to the News & Observer’s report. Last year’s investigation and subsequent, thorough report by Kenneth Wainstein, combined with the NCAA re-opening its case against UNC, pinned the school in the crosshairs of SACS.

The next step for UNC is compiling a formal reply and/or any retorts to the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations. The school has until mid-August to do so.

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