Dissecting Leslie McDonald's Reinstatement Request

Grant Halverson

UNC has released Leslie McDonald's reinstatement request which details the timeline and facts on which a nine game suspension against the fifth year senior was based. The full document can be found here for your reading pleasure. Here is a breakdown of what's in it. Please note this is what UNC determined and sent to the NCAA and by all accounts the NCAA agreed with the findings.

The Timeline

May 31, 2013: The NCAA contacts UNC regarding an issue involving potential agent activity. This contact likely has to do with Rodney Blackstock who was connected to P.J. Hairston and in hot water with the NCAA for having provided payments to former Kansas player Ben McLemore. Bubba Cunnigham stated then UNC was aware of Blackstock as early as May 4, 2013 but chances the NCAA didn't actually contact the school about it until May 31st.

The initial contact by the NCAA set off a review by UNC which, among other things, led to the discovery of impermissible benefits by McDonald. Not stated here is the fact Hairston's first traffic citation(in a rental car) occurred just prior to this date and his arrest for marijuana possession(also in a rental car) occurred just after this date. While the NCAA contact is certainly an important date, Hairston's activity is probably the real catalyst for UNC's actions.

July 6, 2013: UNC sends a cease-and-desist letter to Iceberg Guards demanding they discontinue using McDonald's image in their advertising.

July 8, 2013: UNC interviews McDonald for the first time. Assistant coach Steve Robinson is present for the interview.

September 20, 2013: The NCAA interviews Elizabeth City State basketball player Miykael Faulcon concerning benefits he allegedly received from Haydn "Fats" Thomas.

October 7, 2013: The NCAA talks to Faulcon a second time.

October 24, 2013: The NCAA conducts interviews with McDonald and other members of the Tar Heel basketball team. The number of players interviewed is redacted and it should be noted every player spoke to the NCAA with personal legal counsel present. During this interview, McDonald admitted to accepting impermissible benefits.

The Benefits

Rental Cars

McDonald told the NCAA he had used multiple cars, one a 2009 Porsche Cayenne belonging to a Thomas associate named Catina Farrington and three others connected to Thomas himself. McDonald said, in addition to the Porsche, he had driven a 2012 Chevy Camaro, 2013 Mercedes 350 and 2008 Audi A4. McDonald used these vehicles to drive around Chapel Hill and also make three separate trips to Oakboro, NC.

The NCAA and UNC determined McDonald's use of these vehicles over multiple periods resulted in the receipt of impermissible benefits of $587.57, $416.41, $118.75 and $34.77. Of note here is these numbers were not based solely on McDonald's stated usage of the vehicles but his "potential access" to them as well. In other words. he was held responsible for times he may not have even used the car.

Lodging

McDonald stayed for three nights at the home of Johnny Tillett in Nags Head, NC while McDonald was there working at a basketball camp run by Tillet. UNC and the NCAA determined, based on rental rates in the Nags Head area, McDonald received an improper benefit valued at $50.

Mouth guards

McDonald received a custom mouth guard from a friend named Brint Hayes who is associated with Iceberg Holdings and a oral surgeon named Spencer Howard(If you follow the lunatic ravings at Pack Pride you know Howard's name since they have pegged him as neck deep in improper activity where UNC athletics is concerned) McDonald said Hayes provided him some some kind of substance he bit down on to get his dental impression. That impression was then used to make him a custom mouth guard. The letter notes specifically that McDonald didn't go to a dental office to have this done which would have likely added to the benefit total. A cost analysis concluded this to be a $50 benefit for McDonald because receiving a mouth guard is actually a permissible benefit. Since it didn't come from the school, there was some value of impermissible benefit involved.

iPhone

McDonald admitted to UNC he bought an iPhone for $100 from Thomas. Because there are no records to verify this exchange the NCAA and UNC concluded McDonald received an improper benefit of $124.19 i.e. the market value of an iPhone 4.

Promotional violations

McDonald's name was used to promote Iceberg Guards which he says happened without his knowledge. He also said he promoted the company via his personal Twitter account but did not receive any compensation for doing so.

McDonald also appeared in a video for KISS Entertainment to promote party in Raleigh, NC although he was not compensated nor was the video actually used to promote the party.

The Penalties

Since the value of the benefits exceeded $700, the penalty is 30% of UNC's regular season schedule or nine games. That does not include the exhibition game or secret scrimmage since those games cannot be counted as a part of a reinstatement request. The document concludes with a request for McDonald to be fully reinstated since he had already been held out of nine games.

Analysis

-First and foremost is the fact any UNC player that talked to the NCAA did so with personal legal counsel present. This is a huge shift from how the football investigation was handled when players talked to the NCAA with UNC legal counsel present. UNC has clearly learned from that experience and from how other widely publicized cases have been handled. Even players who were not being investigated were given the benefit of personal legal counsel to protect their interests.

-The rental car section makes repeated reference to a redacted player which we can assume is P.J. Hairston. Based on the detailing of the benefits, it is clear Hairston is on the hook for around 75% of the usage of the various rental cars versus the 25% or so for which McDonald was penalized. That means Hairston is looking at a fairly high value assigned to the improper benefits he allegedly received. That doesn't include potential benefits Hairston may have received that did not involve McDonald.

-UNC says it became aware of McDonald's issues, in part, because of social media monitoring. There has been a great hue and cry from UNC fans that somehow violations got posted on social media and UNC was unaware of it. According to the letter, UNC "through its review of social media...discovered several potential issues." Seeing that UNC was previously hit with a failure to monitor social media charge during the football scandal, this is also a positive shift in how compliance is being handled under Bubba Cunningham.

-None of the providers of benefits were determined to be "representatives of the University's athletic interests." In other words, they were not boosters as defined by the NCAA.

-The NCAA's insistence on nailing guys for staying at someone's house continues to be comical and incredibly stupid. It is painfully evident how dumb this rule is when you actually take the time to read how they calculate the improper benefit. It would be one thing is someone actually paid for a hotel room because that gives you a clear rate to calculate. Calculating the benefit of staying at someone's house while you were in town to work at a basketball camp might be even dumber than what the NCAA did to Deunta Williams and Kendric Burney. I can only imagine what might have happened if Chris Hawkins had stopped by.

-In the end the case more or less came down to the rental cars since those easily surpassed the $700 threshold used for levy a 30% of the season suspension. It also should be noted, based on the details of when McDonald used the cars, this sort of thing is next to impossible to monitor. Assuming a player is smart enough to not advertise using a rental car or get stopped by the police on the wrong side of Durham.

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