This was only a matter of time and quite frankly I am a little shocked it has taken this long. Eric Prisbell at USA Today is reporting that Hayden Thomas of Durham is the name on the rental agreement for the 2013 Yukon P.J. Hairston was driving when he was arrested last month.
Thomas, 39, of Durham, said he rented the car for himself and that a friend, Miykael Faulcon of Durham, had borrowed the car to go to a store when the arrest occurred.
"I don't know P.J. Hairston," Thomas told USA TODAY Sports. "I know Miykael, his friend. I don't know anyone at Carolina. I don't even like the Carolina team. Look at the age disparity between me and those boys. I could be their father."
Thomas rented the car at 10 p.m. June 2 at the Hertz location at Raleigh Durham International Airport, and the car was returned at 10:30 p.m. June 5. Thomas was charged $1261.64, according to the receipt. The license plate number on the rental receipt matches the one listed on the Durham (N.C.) police report of Hairston's arrest, as does the year, make and model of the vehicle.
Of course Thomas' name has been out there in the rumor mill for a few days now. Prisbell is the first one to nail it down with proof i.e. the rental agreement which shows the SUV cost over $1200 for three days. On the surface, Thomas' denial sounds like good news for Hairston and UNC except he may not be telling the whole truth as illustrated by his statements to WTVD's Mark Armstrong. In those he admits to selling a phone to Leslie McDonald for $100 and says he has been at parties with UNC players. There is also the matter of various social media interactions which have been discovered that indicate Thomas knows at least a few UNC players. This would appear to contradict Thomas' assertion he doesn't know UNC players and what not.
It is unclear on what this new information means from an NCAA perspective or how much the NCAA can actually look into this seeing that everyone involved not on the Tar Heel basketball team is under no obligation to tell investigators anything. The basic premise that Thomas rented the SUV and let Faulcon borrow it should be good news for UNC except Hairston ended up behind the wheel. What the NCAA does with that is the real question, assuming the they believe Thomas' explanation to begin with. There is also still the matter of whether the Durham Police will press additional charges against Hairston based on the discovery of the gun. In other words, we know more than we did a few hours ago but the water is still plenty muddy on how it impacts Hairston and UNC.
Let us also remember that while the media and public is getting this information for the first time, it is entirely possible UNC has had these details for weeks. If Hairston was completely forthcoming in his conversations with Roy Williams and the compliance office following the arrest, UNC is ahead of the curve in knowing what happened that night. That doesn't mean anyone is off the hook since the gears tend to grind very slowly in these situations. It should mean the crisis is being addressed and if there is NCAA business, UNC is dealing with that aspect. However, should it turn out Hairston either lied or didn't reveal everything then this new information might be irrelevant because I don't see how he stays on the team if he withheld information from the UNC staff.
As we learned during the football scandal, speculation, media reports and the rantings of message board denizens ultimately don't matter. The only thing that does is what the NCAA and in this case the Durham Police do. And while UNC's handling of previous issues of this nature has been suspect, there is a new chancellor, AD and compliance staff. Hopefully that means an upgrade in crisis management.