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Source: NCAA to release UNC ruling on Friday

The NCAA infractions committee panel handling North Carolina’s multiyear academic case plans to release its ruling Friday, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Jeff Goodman.

The ruling comes roughly eight weeks after North Carolina appeared before the panel in August in Nashville, Tennessee, for a two-day hearing. The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control.

The oft-delayed case is focused on years of irregular courses requiring a research paper or two. Those courses typically offered high grades and featured significant athlete enrollments.

In mid-August, North Carolina chancellor Carol Folt, athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell attended both days of hearings before the infractions committee panel. Football coach Larry Fedora, who wasn’t at North Carolina at the time in question, attended the first day.

While a ruling could provide resolution, the case could linger if North Carolina pursues an appeal or legal action in response to potential penalties. Such penalties could include fines, probation, postseason bans or vacated wins and championships.

In an email to the Associated Press, NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said the NCAA would send out a media advisory on the morning of an announcement but had “nothing further to share before then.”

UNC spokeswoman Joanne Peters Denny declined to comment in an email, referring questions to the NCAA.

The focus is on independent-study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies Department on the Chapel Hill campus. The courses were misidentified as lecture classes but didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades.

In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein estimated that more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes across numerous sports making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said North Carolina used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

The case grew as an offshoot of a 2010 investigation of the football program, resulting in sanctions in March 2012. The NCAA reopened an investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in May 2015 and revised them in April 2016 and again in December.

The NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to nonathletes. The NCAA removed that charge in its second notice of allegations, then revamped and reinserted it into the third NOA.

North Carolina has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority and that the NCAA was overreaching in what should be an academic matter.

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

North Carolina has argued that nonathletes had access to the courses and that athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying he counted athletes who were no longer team members; the school put the figure at less than 30 percent.

SEC commissioner Greg Sankey chairs the infractions panel, which includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

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