It is Thursday, after all, and you know what that means when it comes to the UNC football investigation. And a tip o' the hat if you caught the Ferris Bueller reference in the title.
In response to Wednesday's ruling that UNC could no longer withhold phone records and parking ticket information requested by a group of media outlets, the University released at least a part of said information that revealed some eye-popping numbers, especially as it relates to parking offenses by members of the football team.
- There were 395 tickets issued to the 11 requested players plus Austin.
- The total amount of fines generated by the nearly 400 tickets was over $13,000.
- Not all of the 12 players received parking tickets.
- Greg Little alone appears to have 93 tickets, Ryan Houston has 74, and Marvin Austin had 68. That's 235 of the 395 tickets.
On first glance, the numbers are, well, eye-popping. A dozen (and actually less since not all had tickets) players racking up almost 400 parking tickets to the tune of over $13K in fines jumps off the page, until some perspective is applied. The tickets were issued over the course of 3.5 years, so that's roughly equivalent to one per player per month. And while $13,000 in fines seems excessive, that's roughly $30 per offense, which is not bad for a parking ticket. Besides, Campus Police at UNC issued over 47,000 parking tickets at UNC in 2010 alone, generating over $1.6 million in fines.
A cursory glance at the list of citations would seem to show that a good number of them occurred in and around the Kenan Football Center and Kenan Stadium, which would make sense. And let me tell you from experience how easy it is to rack up parking tickets at UNC - when I was there in the late 80s and early 90s, the Park Nazis (as we called them) knew my license plate by heart. One morning my battery died and I was parked behind the dorm and could not move my car before 7:00 AM. I called Campus Police to report my disabled car so I wouldn't get a ticket and gave the first four letters of my plate - the dispatcher finished my plate number for me. So in that regard I understand, as I probably racked up 30 or 40 tickets in a similar time frame.
Of course the meat of the parking ticket release was in matching cars to players, but UNC refused to release the information in that manner, much to the chagrin of the local media (and apparently it is a violation of state and federal law to release that information). But of course through some deep research and simple deduction (e.g. Who would have the license plate SW3UNC16? Let's see, who wore #3 at Southwest Onslow High School and #16 at UNC? Why Kendric Burney, of course!) the media has been able to place a number of players with the cars they were driving.
That, in turn, has led to some interesting tidbits of information. Little apparently accumulated his 93 tickets in five vehicles with 9 different license plate numbers. Austin apparently accumulated so many tickets that he acquired a scooter, which can be parked nearly anyplace on campus and only requires a $24 parking permit.
So what can be gleaned from the parking ticket data? Not much that is concrete. Like the initial phone record dump that showed hundreds of calls between John Blake and Gary Wichard, while it looks really bad, there is no evidence that anything illegal or improper took place. Instead of bringing clarity to the situation, all it really does is open up more questions. UNC says all the cars that received tickets have been matched to the player, a relative, or another student. On the other hand, that's a lot of tickets and a lot of cars. Then again, did you ever borrow a friend or roommate's car in college and get a parking ticket? Just too many possibilities.
One thing that has not been discussed in all this is that like all big-time schools, UNC has an NCAA compliance department and one of their tasks is to sort out which student-athletes are driving which vehicles. Players are to register and report their vehicles with the compliance office (which did not happen at Ohio State, by the way. Then again, the compliance office at OSU is apparently part of the problem). It is a pretty good bet that UNC's lawyers and compliance people know every owner and the status of every vehicle that a UNC player received a ticket for, since they have had months to prepare for this release of information. And more important, I'm willing to bet the NCAA knows too.
In the end, like many things throughout this whole mess, how you view this depends on what your partisanship is. UNC fans can say, "nothing of value here, a few guys with a lot of tickets, can't prove anything." Meanwhile, ABCers are convinced that this is a sign of how crooked UNC is and that what is going on there is 10 times worse than Ohio State, USC, and 1980s SMU combined. Still, it will be interesting to see what else unfolds as the documents continue to be reviewed, as the phone records have taken a back burner to the parking tickets.