N.C.A.A. Set to Announce Penalties for North Carolina

N.C.A.A. Set to Announce Penalties for North Carolina
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Coach Roy Williams and the North Carolina men’s basketball team after winning the 2005 national championship game. Several members of that team took fraudulent “paper” classes. Credit Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

The N.C.A.A. on Friday morning is expected to announce its ruling on the University of North Carolina for what is widely considered the worst academic scandal in college sports history.

The organization, which governs the top tier of college sports in the United States, has not clearly signaled if it will issue harsh penalties or let the university and its athletics program off easy. Possible sanctions include barring the men’s basketball team from postseason play and vacating the national championships that the Tar Heels won in 2005 and 2009.

An announcement is expected before noon.

According to a university-commissioned investigation, North Carolina had for nearly two decades offered a “shadow curriculum” of fake classes into which athletes were steered. The university appeared guilty of subverting the N.C.A.A.’s central tenet that college athletics are a mere component of education.

U.N.C. was charged with a “lack of institutional control” resulting in violations of bylaws governing extra benefits to athletes and ethical conduct.

The scheme involved nearly 200 laxly administered and graded classes — frequently requiring no attendance and just one paper — over nearly two decades. Their students were disproportionately athletes, especially in the lucrative, high-profile sports of football and men’s basketball. They were mostly administered by a staff member named Deborah Crowder. In many cases, athletes were steered to the classes by athletics academic advisers.

The scandal was so serious that the university’s accreditation body briefly placed the institution on probation.

In its latest notice of allegations, which is the N.C.A.A. equivalent of a lawsuit or indictment, the N.C.A.A.’s enforcement staff pointed to the high enrollment of athletes in the classes — nearly half, according to the university-commissioned investigation led by Kenneth L. Wainstein — and emails in which advisers requested spots for athletes.

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