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Notice of allegations is only the beginning for UNC

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North Carolina notified of allegations

ESPN college basketball reporter C.L. Brown discusses the NCAA's notice of allegations to the University of North Carolina regarding its academic fraud investigation.

Speaking recently at his own induction into the Western North Carolina Hall of Fame, Roy Williams said what a lot of people have been thinking: "It would help if the NCAA would tell us what the allegations are," the North Carolina coach told the Asheville Citizen Times.

Careful what you wish for there, coach.

The charges officially arrived on Friday, when the school acknowledged what was first reported by Inside Carolina -- that the NCAA indeed had filed its notice of allegations in regards to the extensive academic fraud at the school.

The national headquarters and school might have won the day, dropping the news at noon on the Friday of a busy holiday weekend, but this is not, as Williams might hope, the end of what already has been a sordid news cycle.

It is only the beginning.

The notice of allegations is only the first in a series of steps that will ultimately culminate with the NCAA rendering its decision and any punishment it chooses to mete out. And because the wheels of NCAA justice tend to move slower than a four-corner offense, the real end might not come until long after the Tar Heels tip off their season.

Up until now, as bad as the protracted investigation into the African and Afro-American paper class scandal has been, the sacred cow -- the basketball program -- has not yet been touched. The football team lost scholarships, vacated wins and missed a postseason after the NCAA's initial investigation in 2012. And employees were fired after former federal prosecutor Kenneth Wainstein filed his report in October.

But the basketball program has gone unscathed -- dinged by innuendo, certainly -- but not officially punished.

And now, as the Heels are set to embark on what could be their most promising season since the 2009 national championship, they will do so with this cloud looming.

And it's not a Carolina blue cloud; it's a storm cloud shaped something like a hammer about to drop.

But the Heels aren't the only ones under the weight of what's brewing overhead; the NCAA is, too.

Though the people in Indianapolis would never admit to feeling, let alone caving to, public pressure, there is no denying the organization has its feet to the fire over this as much as North Carolina does.

UNC is not a rogue program; it has been viewed as one of college athletics' shining lights, a school that purportedly did things so properly it had its own slogan to define it: The Carolina Way.

This is not about punishing UNLV in the 1990s, or Miami or even Syracuse.

Yet the magnitude of the allegations is wildly egregious and pertains to the last sliver of integrity that college sports has left to cling to. Amateurism has been exposed as a complete sham, and while academic integrity may sound like an oxymoron and does not necessarily extend to the goal of graduation, there is still the generic hope that college athletes are at least trying to do some work.

On paper, at least, the paper class scandal would seem to merit a hefty rebuke from the NCAA.

The NCAA's Committee on Infractions (COI) delivered a pretty large blow to Syracuse in March, damaging coach Jim Boeheim's Hall of Fame reputation with a suspension and vacating wins from his resume. The school, too, was denied a postseason bid, though the Orange weren't necessarily destined for the postseason, anyway.

Carolina is different. The Tar Heels don't just have their eyes on the NCAA tournament; they're capable of playing in the last weekend of the tourney.

The way these things work, the school first will be able to respond to the notice of allegations and, eventually, a hearing will be scheduled with the COI.

The COI meets every other month, and the odds of Carolina appearing before the end of the summer would seem slim at best.

That puts UNC looking at a potential fall hearing at the earliest. On its website, the NCAA says it "typically takes from eight to 12 weeks to write the report and announce penalties," but considering the glacial pace that the group has functioned under lately -- Syracuse met with the COI on Halloween 2014 and learned of its penalties on March 6 -- typical has been relatively atypical of late.

So all of that -- the charges, the what-ifs and eventually the decisions -- will almost assuredly hang over this season.

In October, at ACC media day, Williams admitted the entire investigation had taken a toll on him personally, that he worried if it would smear his reputation and his legacy. Last week, he said he believes it has done a number on the Tar Heels' recruiting as well.

Alas, if the coach thinks the season will be an escape from it all, he's likely mistaken.

This is not the end for North Carolina.

It's only the beginning.