Maryland president Wallace Loh says he would expect North Carolina to get the “death penalty” over the academic allegations that have hung over the athletics program since 2010.
“As president, I sit over a number of dormant volcanoes,” Loh said during a University of Maryland senate meeting Thursday, according to the Raleigh News & Observer. “One of them is an athletic scandal. It blows up, it blows up the university, its reputation, it blows up the president.
“For the things that happened in North Carolina, it’s abysmal. I would think that this would lead to the implementation of the death penalty by the NCAA. But I’m not in charge of that.”
A Maryland spokesperson later said in a statement that Loh’s comments were “not a reflection of personal beliefs about the university or its leadership.”
Joel Curran, vice chancellor of communications at North Carolina, said school officials were taken aback by Loh’s statement.
“We were surprised that a sitting university president with no direct knowledge of our case would choose to offer such uninformed and highly speculative opinions,” Curran wrote in an email.
The Tar Heels won a men’s basketball national title this month amid the shadow of an NCAA investigation into the school’s long-running academic fraud scandal involving athletes in numerous sports, tied to irregularities in an academic department from 1993 to 2011 and leading to five broad-based charges against the school that include lack of institutional control.
“For the things that happened in North Carolina, it’s abysmal. I would think that this would lead to the implementation of the death penalty by the NCAA.”
Maryland president Wallace Loh, on the academic allegations against North Carolina
The NCAA began investigating the program in 2010, reopened its inquiry in summer 2014 and first charged North Carolina in a Notice of Allegations filed in May 2015. The NCAA revised the charges in a second version in April 2016 and changed them again in a third version filed in December.
The investigation is currently delayed while the school and the NCAA work on a new schedule for North Carolina to file its response to the third NOA, as the attorney for a woman at the center of the scandal said he is working to set up an interview after she had previously refused to speak with investigators.
North Carolina men’s basketball coach Roy Williams said before the national title game that his program in particular did nothing wrong.
“Were there some mistakes made? You’re darned right there were. Were there some things I wish hadn’t happened? You’re darned right. But there were no allegations against men’s basketball,” Williams said. “Do I believe again that our institution, there were some mistakes, you’re darned right I do. I’m very mad, sad, ticked off, any way you want to put all that terminology about it, embarrassed and all those things too.”
Williams’ program is referenced along with the football team in the third NOA, though no coaches or program staffers are charged with misconduct.
Williams said the length of the investigation in some ways has been a punishment for his program.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.