The University announced on Feb. 17 that based on new information from UNC, the NCAA determined that there was no rules violation in the case of football player Devon Ramsay. The junior from Red Bank, N.J., who played in the first four games last fall and then was suspended, has been reinstated for his one remaining year of eligibility.
In February the NCAA upheld its original decisi0n of permanent ineligibility for Michael McAdoo, a junior from Antioch, Tenn. These apparently are the last of 16 eligibility rulings in the ongoing investigation of the football program by the athletics governing body and the University since early September.
The NCAA probe, begun in July, continued into February with no word on a timetable for a ruling on possible sanctions against the football program. No details have been made public in most of the 16 individual cases.
UNC had appealed the rulings on McAdoo and Ramsay, saying it believed they were too severe. The McAdoo appeal is pending. Athletics Director Dick Baddour ’66 said, “The facts of the cases simply do not support permanent ineligibility.” Baddour said he was happy with the Ramsay ruling.
Ramsay was the only one of the players suspended after the season started. In addition to Ramsay and McAdoo, two players were reinstated before the first game Sept. 4, one was 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 will have eligibility remaining, four were cleared during the investigation, and two others were cleared to play after serving suspensions for violations.
A two-pronged investigation into the football program, involving improper player contacts with professional sports agents and other outsiders and also possible academic misconduct, is in its seventh month.
Those who have been dismissed or suspended could have academic issues, outside contact issues, or both. Associate Head Coach John Blake resigned shortly after the season started, just ahead of revelations that he had been taking money from a friend who is an agent.
The questions about academic misconduct involve players and a tutor in the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes. The tutor, who was an undergraduate student when she worked for the program, also had been employed privately by Davis to tutor his son. (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 almost nothing 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.
The larger question now for the football program, which is being investigated by the NCAA and the University administration, is whether violations amounted to “lack of institutional control” — an NCAA term that describes knowledge or complicity of coaches and/or other administrators.
In an Oct. 8 meeting of the Faculty Council, Chancellor Holden Thorp ’86 expressed concern about how Blake could have been involved with an agent without Head Coach Butch Davis knowing about it.
“We’ve been very concerned about that and we’ve had a lot of long talks with Coach Davis, and we’re still in the middle of gathering facts on this and we’ve got a lot of work to do to understand why the head coach didn’t know about this contact with an assistant and what to do about that and how to address it,” Thorp said.
A month later Thorp told a UNC System Board of Governors committee that while they still had questions about why Davis didn’t know more, “We don’t have any evidence that Coach Davis knew about or took part in any of the things that happened.”
Baddour and Thorp have expressed support for Davis, now in his fourth season as head coach, throughout the investigation.
Three people outside the program have been identified as having had possibly improper contact with current players. Chris Hawkins ’05, a former UNC player, is identified as a “runner,” someone who helps connect players with agents. A letter from Baddour to Hawkins says that UNC has information that indicates he might have provided impermissible benefits to athletes, arranged for meetings with financial advisers and agents, offered to buy gear or memorabilia from players, 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.
In late October, news organizations across the state, including The Daily Tar Heel, sued the University over its unwillingness to release other records related to the investigation. South Building took issue with the claims in the lawsuit.
On Oct. 11 Marvin Austin was been dismissed by the University for violation of NCAA rules. Two other players, Greg Little and Robert Quinn, were ruled “permanently ineligible,” according to a decision by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff. The three — all pro football prospects — had been suspended since the start of the season.
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 upon information gathered by the institution and the NCAA 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 only 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.
During the reinstatement process, NCAA staff reviews each case on its own merits and the specific facts. Staff decisions consider a number of factors, including guidelines established by the Division I NCAA Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement for the type of violations and value of benefits, the student-athlete’s responsibility for the violation and any mitigating factors presented by the University.
When a school discovers an athlete has been involved in an NCAA rules violation, it must declare the athlete ineligible and may request that his or her eligibility be reinstated. Reinstatement decisions are made independently of any NCAA enforcement process.
Baddour told a news conference that UNC would not appeal the rulings against Little and Quinn. The statement did not elaborate on their cases.
“It’s a sad day when three young men are no longer able to represent their school based on actions they have taken and decisions they have made contrary to NCAA rules,” Baddour said. “Unfortunately, they made serious mistakes in judgment in accepting extra benefits and then not being truthful with our staff and NCAA representatives.
“As an institution, we must learn from these mistakes and work with the NCAA and others who love the game of football to repair the environment in which they occurred. College football is a wonderful game, but we need to closely examine and address the agent-related problems. The University of North Carolina pledges to do all it can to do that. I hate that these issues have hurt the University of North Carolina and our fans. We will learn from this and we will become a better program as a result.”
Austin apologized for his actions in a statement from his lawyer which read in part, “I want to apologize to the NCAA and the entire North Carolina Tar Heel community including my teammates, coaches, students and fans. I have let you all down and I am truly sorry. I deeply regret my actions and the embarrassment I brought to the university and to the football program. I will pay a severe price for my poor decisions by not being able to play my entire senior season.”
Little apologized through a statement from UNC, in which he said he would continue his education:
“One of my greatest accomplishments was receiving a scholarship to the University of North Carolina. Representing the University was a true honor and I am so appreciative of Coach Davis and his staff for giving me the opportunity to achieve my dream of playing for North Carolina. I want to apologize first to my teammates, coaches, and the support staff for letting them down. To the community of Chapel Hill, students, alumni, and supporters of the University, I am terribly remorseful.”
Quinn also apologized in a statement that read in part:
“I appreciate the University of North Carolina for keeping the door open for me to receive a college education. It has made dealing with these circumstances easier knowing that there are people who can see past my mistakes and still view me as a good person. While I have this time away from football I will do my best to continue to give back to the community in a positive manner.”
Baddour said the three players’ scholarships would be honored.
In all, 13 players did not make the trip to Atlanta for the season opener due to the investigation. And much less is known about their situations. Since then four — Shaun Draughn, Da’Norris Searcy, Ryan Houston and Linwan Euwell — have been cleared and reinstated to playing status.
In September two other players, Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams, were determined to have received improper benefits from people outside the program. Burney was given a six-game suspension and Williams was suspended for four, and both were ordered to repay improper benefits.
In three different weeks in October, UNC announced that three other players — Jonathan Smith, Brian Gupton and Charles Brown — had been suspended for the season but each would have one year of playing eligibility remaining.
Ramsay was suspended Oct. 9. “We learned information that requires us to hold him out of competition,” Baddour said.
No details were provided in the cases of Smith, Gupton or Brown.
In late October The News & Observer of Raleigh and The Charlotte Observer and their parent company, The DTH and other newspapers and broadcast outlets filed suit against UNC to try to force the release of records related to the investigation. UNC officials responded that they had been diligent in releasing records they believed did not compromise student privacy, but they insisted that football players had the same rights as any students, and that the law was on their side in withholding certain records that would cross the privacy boundary.
An Oct. 29 story in The N&O stated, “The suit represents a collision between two legal arguments — while universities in North Carolina and elsewhere argue that federal student privacy laws prohibit them from releasing certain records, media organizations say they are overstepping their legal bounds to keep from disclosing particular documents.”
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.