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Proof That NCAA Doesn’t Really Want to Punish UNC Basketball for Fake Classes

North Carolina’s top athletics officials and marquee sport largely get a pass in the worst academic-fraud episode in recent memory
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Photographer: Grant Halverson/Getty Images

The NCAA wants to let UNC off easy. The organization’s academic-fraud findings against the University of North Carolina at first glance seem tough, but the accusations are actually crafted to protect a storied men’s basketball program.

Understanding the NCAA charges matters a lot. How the college sports world reacts to the findings—and UNC’s defensive response—will help determine the punishment the NCAA eventually imposes. The punishment, in turn, will shape the lessons drawn from the fiasco. If the outcry is loud and angry, there’s a chance the powers that be at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis, who are nothing if not image-conscious, will rethink their instinct to protect one of the most valuable franchises in the $16 billion-a-year college sports industry.