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What does the NCAA’s Non-Decision on UNC Mean in the Long term?

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Conclusion: UNC is bad for college sports, and we should all be worried

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

(Run on sentence alert) The NCAA’s non-decision today to just say whatevs to UNC’s bogus academic system could potentially go down as having the most long-term ramifications of any previous ruling the organization has ever issued in the history of ever! This isn’t another internet hot take, because I honestly feel like the trajectory of college sports may have just been changed.

No one can really be surprised by what happened. We’ve seen this freight train slowly crawling towards the station for over a year. Kudos to UNC for playing it perfectly, Johnnie Cochran would have been proud. For years, they played JUST within the margins of the rules, albeit completely outside of the spirit of them. When the reaper came calling, they put up the best legal defense against an otherwise inept organization. Deny deny deny, hey look over there, then bury them in paperwork while seeming to cooperate. Large corporations pull this trick when trying to get out of class action lawsuits. Watching this play out was like seeing Harvey Specter at work.

Meanwhile, UNC fans react around the country:

On a side note, I’m in a group text that includes a UNC fan. His exact quote:

Sounds about right.

The lingering question here is what does this mean for college sports moving forward??

Essentially the NCAA is saying that UNC has the right to construct classes the way they see fit. Whether that means no attendance is required or no professor actually teaches the class is beside the point. College accreditation bodies might have an issue with that, but hey, that’s not the NCAA’s job.

It is a BAD precedent...institutions that value athletics more than academics (like UNC) will be able to set up sham classes without impunity. They are not rendering a decision on Carolina here. They are creating the new standard for what is acceptable and we will be seeing the fallout from this from here on.

Look, I’m not saying UNC is the first school to try and circumvent NCAA policies, or that it was unheard of to try and get away with violations in order to have a competitive edge. Watch just about any movie involving college sports and you’ll see people trying to break the rules.

I’m not even sure what they did is really worse than Louisville’s less than savory recruiting practices. Having sham classes is definitely not worse than Baylor knowingly excusing sexual abuse, to say nothing of Penn State’s coverups. As long as there have been rules, people have tried to break/bend them. There is so much money on the line, not to mention coach and AD jobs.

UNC was never going to get the SMU style “death penalty”. The Mustangs had actual bagmen paying the players. The Tarheels were, to their credit, much more devious about their system. The classes aren’t a sham if you let everyone take them. The fact that nobody would want to take those classes has nothing to do with it. They were in the curriculum, and the NCAA can’t tell you how to run your school. I think actual African American Studies experts would likely balk at what the school was offering to its students, while also claiming to be the best public university in the country.

Similar allegations have been levied against schools, but they’ve never been taken this far, or with the NCAA laying down a precedent-setting decision like this. This is essentially a green light to any school wishing to (further) pretend athletes are students too. Maybe it’s good that it’s been put in such black and white terms, rather than just being an unspoken nod and wink.

For that perhaps we should thank them.