The NCAA ruled Wednesday that two Carolina football players will be suspended from games and must repay benefits they received from a professional sports agent and from contact with a former UNC football player, which was determined to be a preferential treatment violation.
Senior defensive backs Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams — both from Jacksonville and both first team all-ACC selections last season — have been suspended for six games and four games, respectively. Both will be credited for the two games they already have sat out.
Burney, who received $1,333 in benefits, must make a payment of $575.19 to a charity of his choice; Williams, who received $1,426 in benefits, must pay $450.67 to a charity of his choice. The payments must be made before they can play again.
The University thinks the suspensions are excessive. “We plan to appeal the length of the suspensions,” Athletics Director Dick Baddour ’66 said in a statement released by UNC. “While I respect the NCAA process, I believe the penalties to be unduly harsh given the individual circumstances in these cases.”
The statement reads: “According to the facts of the case submitted by the university, these benefits in part included trips to California, Atlanta and Las Vegas for Burney and two trips to California for Williams. The majority of the benefits Burney received were from an individual who meets the NCAA definition of an agent. According to NCAA rules, an agent is any individual who markets or promotes a student-athlete. The majority of Williams’ benefits were preferential treatment violations associated with visiting a former North Carolina football student-athlete.”
The former player was not identified.
In the course of an NCAA investigation into possible improper contact between players and sports agents, the football program, UNC and the NCAA uncovered possible academic misconduct involving an undergraduate student tutor and some players on the football team.
The tutor was identified as having worked for Coach Butch Davis’ family for about two years as an “academic adviser” for his son. The tutor has not been identified and officials have declined to say whether the potential misconduct occurred during the tutor’s employment with Davis. They also declined to say how many players might be involved or to describe the nature of the misconduct.
But 13 players originally were ruled ineligible or were held out of the season opener against LSU on Sept. 4. Two days later running back Shaun Draughn, a senior from Tarboro, was reinstated and played in the second game against Georgia Tech. With the ruling on Burney and Williams, 10 players still have not been reinstated to the lineup.
At Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Trustees Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 said the tutor’s contract was not renewed after June 2009 because there was a sense she had become too friendly with some of the players. Tutoring of athletes is run under strict guidelines that prohibit social fraternization between athletes and tutors.
Baddour said the matter of concern with the tutor came to light in an interview with a player that was related to the NCAA investigation that has been going on for most of the summer.
In a Sept. 17 column, John Drescher ’83, the executive editor of The News & Observer of Raleigh posed 10 questions he said the Faculty Council should have asked Thorp when he met with the council the week before. Thorp responded to the questions in a Thursday column in the paper.
To the question of whether it was appropriate for a tutor to work for both the University and the football coach, Thorp responded: “There’s no policy that would have prohibited the tutor from working for the Davis family. But knowing what we know now, it wasn’t a good idea.”
On Sept. 5, John Blake, associate head football coach, resigned, effective immediately. Blake was in his fourth season as a member of the coaching staff. Blake, considered one of the game’s top recruiters, and Davis have known and worked together for more than 35 years. Media reports have linked Blake to the NCAA probe.
Jack Evans, a professor in the business school who now heads UNC’s efforts to develop the Carolina North campus, and law Professor Lissa Broome are leading the University’s investigation. Evans has years of experience as UNC’s representative to the NCAA and has served on the NCAA Management Council. Broome has served as the University’s faculty athletics representative to the Atlantic Coast Conference and the NCAA. In early September, Winston Crisp ’92 (JD), UNC’s vice chancellor for student affairs, joined the effort looking into academic misconduct.
Baddour and Thorp have expressed support for Davis, now in his fourth season as head coach. “I believe in the leadership of this football program. He has my support,” Baddour said.
The University statement concerning Burney and Williams continued: “When a school discovers a student-athlete has been involved in an NCAA rules violation, it must declare the student-athlete ineligible and may request the student-athlete’s eligibility be reinstated to the NCAA national office staff for consideration. Reinstatement decisions are made independently of any NCAA enforcement process.
“During the reinstatement process, NCAA staff review each case on its own merits based on the specific facts. Staff decisions are made based on a number of factors including guidelines established by the Division I NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement, the student-athlete’s responsibility for the violation, as well as any mitigating factors presented by the university.
“The university can appeal the decision to the Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement, an independent panel comprised of representatives from NCAA member colleges, universities and athletic conferences. This committee can reduce or remove the condition, but it cannot increase the staff-imposed conditions. If appealed, the student-athlete remains ineligible until the conclusion of the appeals process.”
The N&O reported Thursday that it had received an e-mail message from a spokeswoman with the NCAA that said the organization does not have any outstanding reinstatement requests for Carolina football players other than Burney and Williams.
In the Thursday column in the paper, Thorp said the current events should have no bearing on the ongoing $70 million expansion of Kenan Stadium, which includes an academic support center along with luxury boxes.
“We need to strengthen our academic support program for all 700-plus student-athletes, and getting new space is critical to our success,” he wrote. “We also need to secure a long-term revenue stream to support the entire 28-sport athletic program. Carolina fans are passionate about athletics and football and will stick with us to make the Blue Zone a success. Better facilities will give us the ability to attract even better recruits who can succeed both in the classroom and on the field.”