UNC fans, in addition to waiting for football season to start, are also waiting for the NCAA to punish the Heels for their various discretions. We have a bit of a wait – the NCAA won't take up the issue again until their October 28th meeting, and a punishment will most likely be issued next January. In the meantime, the NCAA is releasing their punishments for various other schools, giving tantalizing hints of what's in store for UNC. Last week it was Georgia Tech, placed on four years probation and stripped of their 2009 ACC championship for what was, compared to North Carolina's many sins, minor transgressions. Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was given $312 worth of clothing by a former Tech player now considered an agent, and more damningly the athletic director alerted coach Paul Johnson that Thomas and a teammate were going to be interviewed by the NCAA.
This was disheartening; if that's the punishment the Yellow Jackets received, Carolina was doomed, with orders of magnitude more in illicit benefits being obtained by players, plus instances of academic fraud. But there's some better news out today, in the punishment of an SEC school.
LSU was hit with five major violations, most related to wide receiver coach D.J. McCarthy's recruitment of defensive lineman Akiem Nicks. Nicks was the recipient of impermissible lodging, and McCarthy had (and hid from the NCAA) a second cellphone for extra recruiting calls. The end result? Two lost scholarships and one year of probation, arguably a lighter punishment that Georgia Tech's. This is more similar to UNC's predicament, with regards to a rogue coach, specifically.
The good news is, it appears LSU got their light sentence because they fully cooperated with the NCAA, and preemptively sat Hicks, who would never play for the Tigers. This was UNC's reaction as well, and gives me hope the punishment won't be too severe.
So looking at Tech and LSU, how will the Heels fare? UNC will probably have the 2008 and 2009 seasons vacated, lose a small number of scholarships, and spend at least four years on probation. Beyond that, the NCAA doesn't look to be particularly punitive. But there's not always a lot of logic evident between various NCAA decisions. Still, I feel a lot better after LSU's punishment than I did when I heard about Georgia Tech's.