Greg Sankey will have the most influence on college hoops this season

As the chairman of the NCAA's infractions committee, Greg Sankey has the unenviable task of figuring out how to penalize North Carolina. AP Photo/Butch Dill

The man who could have the most impact on college basketball this season -- or at least create the most waves -- won't dribble a ball, diagram a play, blow a whistle or even select a team to the NCAA tournament.

Greg Sankey, who has a rather busy day job as the commissioner of the SEC, is also the chair of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. At some point in the next few months he and his crew will start to figure out what in the world to do with the University of North Carolina.

Outside of IRS agent, there might not be a more thankless job than serving on the COI, never mind being its chair. Think about it. When was the last time an NCAA penalty was handed down and everyone was happy with it? Exactly.

Fans of the school that is penalized almost always insist the committee was unfair and too harsh; rivals of the accused screech that the group went soft.

That will all seem like a pillow fight when the committee finally rules on North Carolina.

This is easily the biggest case for the COI in recent memory, perhaps the biggest in its history. (For all those who are currently shouting, "What about Penn State?", please cease. That never went through the enforcement channels.) It is not just the scope of the allegations, involving more than 1,000 athletes and dating back nearly two decades. It's what is being alleged and against whom.

Sadly, we all have become rather inured to the ticky-tack allegations that make up so many of the NCAA cases. Blatant academic fraud that goes to the very core of a college's existence, that's not quite so palatable.

Then there is the last piece. This is about North Carolina, the Carolina Way. As much as we've all removed our rose-colored glasses when it comes to college athletics, a part of us still desperately wants to cling to some sliver of the idyll. He can't cheat. It can't happen there.

The charges call out for a hammer -- paper classes stuffed with athletes, basketball players marching like drones in pursuit of the same major -- but what will the hammer look like? The notice of allegations sent in June included severe charges, including impermissible academic benefits to athletes and a lack of institutional control that "seriously undermine or threaten the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate Model."

North Carolina actually found even more violations while preparing its response to the first set, thus delaying the process a bit.

That makes the due date for all of this a bit fluid, and also will make the Tar Heels' season feel like a sort of mad dash for completion. Can the Tar Heels outrun the competition, as well as the NCAA ruling, and finish what promises to be a very good year before sanctions are levied? Perhaps.

But you can't elude the long arm of the law for long, and eventually, Sankey and his committee will have to do the dirty work, namely figure out how North Carolina will pay for its transgressions.

It's not uncomplicated. Roy Williams' name appeared but once in the notice of allegations, and only when the basketball coach expressed disdain that so many of his players were in the same major. That might not merit a seat in the timeout chair alongside fellow Hall of Famers Larry Brown and Jim Boeheim, each docked multiple games this season for their program's miscues.

More complicated is what to do with Carolina basketball. Let's face it. That's the question everyone wants answered. There's a national championship banner from the past at stake, and postseason participation in both the present and the future. The Tar Heels no doubt were in on the paper-class fun, but they weren't alone. Athletes in multiple sports took advantage of the African-American studies freebies; regular students signed up, too.

How does Sankey's group split those hairs? The smart money says not to everyone's satisfaction no matter what the committee decides.

Unlike a lot of chairs who have come before him, university presidents and chancellors who are career academicians instead of athletic administrators, Sankey arrived via the right path. His first gig was as a compliance officer and golf coach at Northwestern State, and when he was initially hired by the SEC, it was at the behest of then-commissioner Mike Slive, who wanted the renegade league to polish its image.

Some might laugh at the idea that anyone in the SEC is in a position to judge anyone else. The league currently includes one head basketball coach whose record includes two vacated Final Fours (John Calipari), another who is just coming off a show-cause penalty (Bruce Pearl), another whose most recent star power was benched while the NCAA investigated his amateur status (Ben Howland), a school that has fired two of its past three coaches for NCAA violations (Tennessee), and a football team under NCAA investigation (Ole Miss).

But in college sports, the he-who-is-without-sin concept needs seriously to be heeded. Just because Sankey's league isn't perfect doesn't mean he can't quantify others' imperfections.

Besides, someone has to do the dirty work. The IRS can't have all the fun.