The NCAA(finally!) has rendered decisions on two Tar Heels as it relates to the agent prong of the investigation which will never end. Via IC:
Burney, who received $1,333 in benefits, must miss six games and make repayment of $575.19 to a charity of his choice. Williams, who received $1,426 in benefits, must miss four games and make repayment of $450.67 to a charity of his choice. Both student-athletes already have sat out two games.
"We plan to appeal the length of the suspensions," says Dick Baddour, North Carolina Director of Athletics. "While I respect the NCAA process, I believe the penalties to be unduly harsh given the individual circumstances in these cases."
First of all, it is very interesting Deunta Williams goes from "he could play vs LSU" to "suspended four games." That is proof positive no one knows anything about this case. Also, I think most people assumed his troubles were related to the academic issue though his name was mentioned in a letter sent to agents from Elaine Marshall. It was a given, at least for me anyway, that Burney was going to be disciplined, the question was always how much and which probe he was involved with, possibly both. Looking at the benefit amounts, Burney actually took less than Williams but got a longer suspension. Taylor Zarzour said via Twitter after speaking with a source at UNC, they were not shocked by Burney's punishment but blown away by what Williams received. ACC Now indicated on Twitter that the suspensions were solely agent related and not connected to the academic probe. Also of note, Williams involvement included a former student athlete but not Chris Hawkins. More proof that for as much as people claim to know about this case, they do not know as much as they think.
UNC AD Dick Baddour also indicated an appeal was forthcoming citing the length of the suspensions as being "unduly harsh." It is certainly understandable from UNC's perspective regarding Williams who UNC thought was not going to miss any games then suddenly ends up being docked four games. As for Burney, it was always my understanding, based on this reading of NCAA rules that impermissible benefits over $1000 would result in suspension for 30% of the season or four games in football. Then again that same article also says the NCAA varies from case to case. You also have Alabama's Marcell Dareus(hat tip to reader scl11) who received almost $1800 in benefits(more than Williams or Burney and A.J. Green for that matter) but only got two games. At the time, it was said Dareus was very cooperative and that cooperation was a mitigating factor. Does that mean Burney was not cooperative?
The end game to UNC's appeal pertains to the length and how the schedule plays out. If both suspensions play out to their entire length, Williams will miss Rutgers and ECU with a return vs Clemson. Burney would miss all three of those games and UNC's trip to Charlottesville and return vs Miami. Ideally it would be nice to at least get both back by the next ACC game which is Clemson. I wonder if maybe UNC should let Williams' suspension ride and try to get Burney's reduced to four games. However if they feel Williams is being treated unfairly then they are going appeal his as well. The problem with Williams is the amount of money and the stated rules which say anything over $1000 results in a suspension equally 30% of the season. On the flip side that same rule could be used to argue Burney should get fewer games. Obviously we do not know all the details that went into the ultimate decision handed down by the NCAA. My guess right now is Williams' suspension is unchanged and Burney's will be reduced from six to four. Just my guess on that though.
Two additional points. First of all, obviously these players did something wrong and whatever punishment ends up being finalized is what they all will have to live with not to mention living with the fact their actions royally screwed their teammates. For UNC to appeal is fine and perfectly within their rights. The players will still be punished. Also, UNC is bearing a major PR price with this mess lest anyone think the Tar Heels are attempting to duck responsibility for illicit actions(and believe me, someone on the ABC side is making that argument right now.) Secondly, this is significant movement on the case. I have said for a while now that I had reached a point where I am less concerned about what the decisions would be as long as they were made and we could know what the cards would be going forward. Obviously we are a little closer to that today. Hopefully this also means other cases will be addressed quickly. If the NCAA knows enough about Burney and Williams to rule then I would think they have some ideas about Robert Quinn and Charles Brown. Greg Little and Marvin Austin are probably a little more complicated and who knows when the players involved in the academic scandal are going to be cleared. In short, the silver lining here is the beginning of the end is nigh...I think.