The NCAA has announced that their investigation into the University of North Carolina's scandal-ridden athletics program has concluded. Fans (and rivals) of the Tar Heels were wondering what the punishment would be for the school creating multiple classes designed to keep athletes on the field by requiring as little work as possible. Fans of the university rejoiced when the organization said it “could not conclude” that academic fraud took place.

The UNC cheating scandal

UNC's trouble started back in 2014 on the heels of a smaller scandal in 2010.

A professor blew the whistle on a decades-long scheme to keep players academically eligible to play. The scheme was multi-faceted. Most football players were sent to the UNC African-American Studies program to take classes of dubious value. Some courses had a professor that rarely taught or even required students to show up. Others were so-called “paper classes” that only required students to write a single paper at the end of the semester. Papers could be downloaded off a database maintained by the team. There were also several hundred instances of unauthorized or possibly unauthorized grade modification to keep players academically eligible.

There were several possibilities regarding punishment.

On the lighter end of the scale, UNC could have faced probation and possibly faced cuts in scholarship funds. On the other end, the school could have faced bans from postseason play in multiple sports. They could have taken away victories that occurred during the period of illegal activity. This time includes 2005 when the Tar Heels men's basketball team won a championship.

Losing that title was on the table.

However, the NCAA did none of this. Since UNC did not cooperate with the investigation, the NCAA was unable to get the proof required for more severe punishments. In the end, though the organization was troubled by what had been done, all the school got was a light punishment for not cooperating.

UNC gets the best outcome possible

One of the reasons that UNC got away with the classes was because, however dubious their value, the courses were offered to all students. The investigation revealed that students with severe mental health or trauma issues were steered towards the classes along with players. Since the NCAA lets each school determine what is academic fraud for themselves, the organization decided that they did not have the power to act.

The investigation is now over, even though the NCAA and critics of college athletics are seething. It cost the university around $18 million in legal fees. One basketball player who took one of the phony classes has been ruled ineligible to play. Four administrators at UNC were fired. However, considering that they were facing some of the most severe charges possible, the school got off light, and many fans feel vindicated.