Shannon Watkins of the Martin Center explores the NCAA’s decision to deliver no punishment to UNC-Chapel Hill in connection with the long-running “paper classes” scandal.

UNC-Chapel Hill’s infamous athletics-academic scandal has officially been swept under the rug. On October 13th, the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions announced that UNC-Chapel Hill will not be punished for the fraudulent classes it offered to 3,100 students, 47.6 percent of whom were athletes, for nearly two decades. This decision concludes Chapel Hill’s six-year saga of allegations, obfuscations, investigations, and public shame.

The university’s administrators not only appear relieved; they seem convinced that the NCAA made the right decision. In a university message, Chancellor Carol Folt wrote that the NCAA’s conclusion that UNC didn’t violate any NCAA bylaws was the “correct—and fair—outcome.”

Yet many others, including media commentators, educators, and sports fans, expressed dismay and disbelief at the NCAA’s failure to enforce academic accountability. …

… UNC was cleared of allegations because of a single technicality: The NCAA decided that the case was outside its jurisdiction because non-athletes were also enrolled in the fake classes.

But that technicality is irrelevant to the major issue at hand. When the NCAA initiated a three-year long investigation, the accusation it leveled against UNC was not that of academic fraud per se; rather, it was investigating whether or not the university administered special favors to student-athletes to help them earn good grades and maintain athletic eligibility. And there is a significant amount of evidence that suggests student-athletes were purposely funneled through the fraudulent courses at the heart of the investigation.