NCAA Details Allegations in Yearlong Football Probe

The news that emerged in July 2010 — that the NCAA was investigating two football players for possible improper contacts with sports agents — and then in late August — that UNC had learned of possible academic misconduct within the program — took another step toward resolution on June 21, when the University received detailed allegations from the NCAA resulting from a yearlong investigation.

A 42-page document from the NCAA spells out its allegations, three of which involve former Associate Head Coach John Blake, who resigned shortly after the start of the 2010 season. Blake is accused of:

  • Providing false and misleading information to the NCAA and to UNC and failing to cooperate with the investigation;
  • Marketing players’ athletic abilities to a pro sports agent, Gary Wichard; and
  • Receiving outside income that he did not report to UNC.

Also alleged:

  • Jennifer Wiley ’09, a former tutor in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes, provided extra benefits worth about $3,500 to players in the form of expenses for travel ($150) and parking ($1,789) and for tutoring ($1,562); committed academic fraud; and refused to provide information to the NCAA and to UNC;
  • Multiple players committed academic fraud, received preferential treatment and accepted impermissible benefits; and
  • UNC failed to monitor the football program and the conduct of Chris Hawkins ’05, a former UNC player who has been accused of helping connect players with agents, and did not monitor players’ social media activity.

The names of a number of players were redacted by UNC in releasing the report late June 21. The next day, the University told The News & Observer of Raleigh that it also had redacted from the report, which is available online, the names of two individuals, identified as “athletic department” employees. The N&O reported that UNC said that Coach Butch Davis was not one of the two employees cited. The two names that were redacted appear in the ninth citation of violations, which involves allegations that UNC failed to monitor Hawkins, failed to monitor players’ social media activity and failed to follow up in 2009 and 2010 on information that surfaced about possible improper benefits.

UNC has 90 days to respond to the notice, and then the NCAA is expected to rule on whether violations occurred and determine any penalties. The NCAA has asked that at least five UNC representatives attend a hearing on Oct. 28 in Indianapolis, when the NCAA will consider UNC’s response: Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86; Athletics Director Dick Baddour ’66; Davis; law Professor Lissa Broome, UNC’s faculty athletics representative; and Amy Herman ’01 (MA), UNC’s director of compliance.

“I deeply regret that Carolina is in this position,” Thorp said. “We made mistakes, and we have to face that. When the investigation started a year ago, we pledged to cooperate fully with the NCAA, to go where the facts took us and to face the issues head on. Our level of cooperation is evident in the allegations, some of which arise from facts that we self-reported to the NCAA. We will emerge with a stronger athletics program, and we will restore confidence in Carolina football.”

Baddour said, “We are disappointed to be in this position because it goes against everything we believe in, but we are thankful to get to the next step in the process.” He added: “We will gather the information the NCAA has requested and prepare to address the notice with the NCAA in the fall.

“Our fans have been through a lot this past year, and we appreciate their continued patience and support as we work through these next steps with the NCAA.”

“I feel terrible that these allegations occurred under my watch,” Davis said on June 21. “I especially regret that the University has had to endure this scrutiny because of the football program. The responsibility for correcting any problems that put us in this position is mine, and I take that responsibility very seriously.”

In late August 2010, Baddour, Thorp and Davis held a news conference to discuss UNC’s investigation into academic misconduct. Nine days later, UNC declared six players ineligible and withheld seven other players from the season opener against LSU. In all, 14 Tar Heels missed at least one game in the 2010 season due to their involvement in the investigation. Two additional players who had been under scrunity were reinstated before the first game Sept. 4.

Of the 16, Marvin Austin was dismissed by the University for violation of NCAA rules. Greg Little and Robert Quinn were ruled “permanently ineligible” by the NCAA. Two others, Deunta Williams and Kendric Burney, were determined to have received improper benefits from people outside the program and ordered to repay improper benefits, then were reinstated to play. Another of the suspended players, Michael McAdoo, was dismissed from the team for violating team rules. He appealed the decision, and the ruling was upheld in early February. On July 5 McAdoo filed a lawsuit against the University and the NCAA, seeking reinstatement and unspecified damages.

Austin, Little and Quinn were considered pro football prospects, and their loss and the loss of others who were suspended were widely believed to have hurt Carolina’s chances of competing at the highest level nationally in 2010. The Tar Heels finished with a record of 8-5, including a win over Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.

Two players were reinstated before the first game Sept. 4, two were dismissed from the UNC program for violations of team rules, two were declared permanently ineligible by the University for NCAA violations, three were suspended for this season but have eligibility remaining in 2011, four were cleared during the investigation, and two others were cleared to play after serving suspensions for violations. One player was suspended after he had played in games at the start of the season, but he was cleared last winter and reinstated for another year of eligibility.

Those who have been dismissed or suspended could have academic issues, outside contact issues or both.

Wiley, who was an undergraduate student when she worked for the program, also had been employed privately by Davis to tutor his son. On Nov. 11, UNC sent a letter of disassociation to Wiley, who was found to have provided travel and transportation help to players in addition to being involved in possible academic misconduct on the part of players.

She was let go by UNC in July 2009 after she appeared to have friendships with football players she worked with, which is not allowed. The University and the NCAA have said little about what went on between the players and the tutor. UNC officials said their cases were referred to the Honor Court, whose proceedings are not public.

Baddour and Thorp expressed support for Davis, about to begin his fifth season as head coach, throughout the investigation.

UNC identified six people, some of them former Carolina football players, who were found in the investigation to have given football team members impermissible gifts and/or impermissible help with lodging, travel, transportation and entertainment expenses. The University sent letters of disassociation to two of those.

Three people outside the program were identified as having had possibly improper contact with current players. They include Hawkins, the former player, to whom Baddour sent a letter telling him that UNC had information that indicated he might have provided impermissible benefits to athletes, arranged for meetings with financial advisers and agents, offered to buy gear or memorabilia from players while knowing that was impermissible, and/or told agents that he represented certain players. The letter notified Hawkins that his involvement led to some of the suspensions and that he was banned from all UNC athletics facilities and prohibited from contacting any of its athletes for the next five years.

The documents also identified Michael Katz, “a known sports agency employee,” as having provided admission credentials to a party to one or more players; and Todd Stewart, whom UNC determined to have fit the definition of a prospective agent, as having paid for hotel rooms for one or more players.

Austin, a defensive tackle from Washington, D.C., was dismissed for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules. The University based its decision on information gathered as part of the joint investigation with the NCAA. Austin’s case was not submitted to the NCAA for reinstatement.

Little, a wide receiver from Durham, and Quinn, a defensive end from Ladson, S.C., were declared ineligible by UNC for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules. According to the facts submitted by the University, the total value of the benefits was approximately $4,952 for Little and $5,642 for Quinn.

Little accepted diamond earrings, as well as travel accommodations for the Bahamas, Washington, D.C., and two trips to Miami, among other benefits. Quinn accepted two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel accommodations for a trip to Miami, among other benefits.

Based on information gathered by the institution and the NCAA’s Agent, Gambling and Amateurism staff during its joint investigation, unethical conduct charges were found against both athletes for providing false and misleading information. According to the facts submitted by the University, each athlete was not truthful during three separate interviews with University and NCAA enforcement staff members. Further, Little and Quinn provided more accurate information only when presented with evidence that was contrary to their assertions.

Their cases included multiple occasions on which they accepted benefits that were clearly against NCAA rules. The staff also noted that the two provided false information despite multiple opportunities to correct their assertions.

UNC declined to appeal the rulings against the three. Austin, Little and Quinn each apologized publicly for their actions.

In January, Thorp told the UNC trustees: “Our review committee, in partnership with the NCAA, has conducted more than 60 interviews of students on the football team, athletic department staff, academic support staff and others. The NCAA has been to campus seven times. The [N.C.] secretary of state’s office has been here twice as part of its investigation into agents. We are not aware of an upcoming visit by the NCAA, so we think that they may have made their last visit.”

Baddour told the trustees about some of the changes being implemented in the football program.

He said hiring and orientation practices would continue to be reviewed and that potential and current employees would be required to disclose relationships and associations with agents — at hiring and annually. He said new employees would be required to attend orientation sessions, including rules education.

He said the program would hire an additional rules compliance person, which would free an assistant athletics director to devote more time to rules education and issues regarding agents and extra benefits.

Thorp and Baddour have sought repeatedly to contrast UNC’s response to that of some schools that meet NCAA scrutiny with denials. Thorp told the trustees in January, “I don’t feel good that we’re in this situation, but I feel good about the way that we’ve handled it, and I feel good about where we’re headed. I particularly feel proud of the fact that we faced this head-on, we disclosed that we had issues that we needed to work on, and we erred on the side of caution with student-athletes.”

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