Let me start off by stating the obvious, just to get it out of the way, if the University of Kentucky was the center of this insane athletic/academic scandal the NCAA would likely hand UK the death penalty. I don't want to come across as a hater but no one can disagree. The ACC, namely North Carolina and Duke, are the darlings of the NCAA, everyone knows that, even if they don't say it out loud, well I am saying, or writing it, out loud.
Quoting from a recent Fox Sports article calling for severe sanctions against North Carolina I cite a perfect example of the NCAA's history of hypocrisy. In 2000 the University of Minnesota’s men’s basketball program was crushed by NCAA sanctions because a secretary wrote class papers for 18 Basketball players, and the coach was aware of it. The NCAA said the violations were:
"among the most serious academic fraud violations to come before it in the past 20 years. The violations were significant, widespread and intentional. More than that, their nature — academic fraud — undermined the bedrock foundation of a university and the operation of its intercollegiate athletics program."
Fast forward to 2014. The violations committed by the University of North Carolina over the past two decades dwarf Minnesota’s malfeasance. There is no comparison between the two, not even close. A report released by Kenneth L. Wainstein stated that a bogus African, African American Studies Class (AFAM) involved more than 3,100 students and 47.4 percent of them were athletes, yes even UNC Basketball players and this faux class went unchecked for 18 YEARS! The class was set up to keep student athletes academically eligible, period. And oh yes, 10 of the 15 players on North Carolina's 2005 National Championship team were AFAM majors.
Now we are talking about the same NCAA Infractions Committee that forced John Calipari's Memphis team to vacate a Final Four appearance because star Derrick Rose apparently cheated on an SAT test. The same NCAA that CLEARED Derrick Rose to play but the NCAA doesn't admit mistakes it was the University of Memphis' problem. So what will this same NCAA Infractions Committee do about the absolutely awesome level of academic fraud at the University of North Carolina? Well if the past gives us a glimpse into the future the NCAA will likely do nothing because this is the same NCAA that tried to wash it's hands of this scandal when it broke a few years ago. They stated at that time that the scandal was an institutional problem and was purely an academic issue and didn't involved athletics. Now they're back-tracking and will be forced to deal with it.
The NCAA doesn't have a script for this level of fraud. If they do have a template it would be the University of Minnesota’s men’s basketball program scandal of the late 1990's. And the level of fraud between the two doesn't compare in any way. So the NCAA doesn't really have much of a choice but to hammer UNC. They simply cannot whitewash this situation and sweep it under a rug because the NCAA has a severe credibility problem at the moment. I can only image what would happen if the NCAA chooses to ignore this situation or issues UNC a slap on the wrist. I can only image the uproar that would ensue.
I truly believe that the NCAA is at a crossroads with regard to this situation. If they fail I would make a solid bet that the NCAA will fail along with it. Their credibility would be annihilated to such a degree that it would be a hollow organization. It would provide the fuel for the 4 or 5 major conferences to break away and start anew. I would not be surprised if these major conferences break away and either adopt the NIT as their model to determine a College Basketball National Champion or create something new from scratch.
So the NCAA must hand the University of North Carolina the most severe of penalties. The sanctions must reverberate for a generation not a year or two. I don't know about handing the programs that could be considered "Revenue Sports" like Basketball and Football the death penalty but maybe the death penalty is exactly what is needed.
Another very interesting consequence of this high profile situation is the likelihood that it opens the floodgates and exposes other major instances of academic/athletic fraud at other high-end universities. I would almost guarantee the shock-wave resulting from this debacle will blast open other hidden closet doors at other universities.
So we will wait and see what the NCAA does and if they fail I would expect a vigorous response from other major conferences and fans to disband the joke that is the NCAA.