"The courses were generally available to the student body, and non-student-athletes took the courses", according to the NCAA report.
The investigation centered on a system in which a significant percentage of student-athletes took classes that had academic irregularities - and whether that resulted in those athletes receiving an impermissible benefit.
The only violations that the committee concluded in this case was that two former staff members in the African Studies Department - Julius Nyang'oro and Debby Crowder - failed to cooperate during the investigation. At its core, the case aimed to find it North Carolina provided student-athletes with extra benefits through special access and course assistance. "Since 2014, the NCAA membership has acknowledged the question whether academic fraud occurred is one appropriately answered by institutions based on their own academic policies".
"A singular principle allowed UNC room to make its claims and, ultimately, limits the panel's ability to conclude that academic fraud occurred", the Public Infractions Decision said.
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The focus of the investigation were independent study-style courses in the African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department.
"Based on the general availability and the lack of specific examples, the panel can not conclude a systemic effort to impermissibly benefit student-athletes", it said.
The panel also determined that North Carolina did not fail to monitor or lack institutional control over the athletic department.
Former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein released an independent investigation into the scandal, and by his estimate more than half of the 3,100 students that enrolled in those course from 1993-2011 were Tar Heel athletes.
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"As with any course that offers an easy path to a high grade, word of these classes got around", the report states. The football program received a one-year postseason ban, lost 15 scholarships over a three-year period and also was forced to vacate 15 wins in March of 2012. UNC's argument, which will likely be the crux of their appeal, is that the NCAA is overstepping their jurisdiction.
"[Two] fraternity members explained that they saw these classes as somewhat of a "loophole" in Chapel Hill's otherwise demanding curriculum, and they never conceived of these classes as being in any way tailored to athletes".
At UNC - much like athletes need a certain minimum GPA to remain eligible to compete - each Greek house needs to achieve an overall minimum GPA among its members to maintain university recognition and stay on campus. The accurate figure is less than 30 percent, the school said.
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