Been quite a week eh? The cacophony of information appearing on the internet concerning this case has been nothing short of staggering. Many thanks to Doc for sharing the load and offering his opinions. Let's see if we can cobble everything together in a meaningful way and wrap this puppy up.
The Story So Far
It all started with Marvin Austin's Twitter account which made references to..well...I have no freaking idea anymore. Was he staying at The Liv? Was he quoting a rap song? Did he buy Gucci or was he taking a picture of his mail? And why is the Cheesecake Factory so darn expensive? Anyway, red flags went up and the NCAA came calling to see if the many tweets of Marvin Austin alluded to any improper benefits flowing the senior's way. Austin deleted all his accounts, changed his cell phone number and applied to WITSEC for relocation. Unfortunately the internet has a long and redundant cache of information. Pictures soon surfaced of Austin in Miami with Greg Little at a party on May 15th which is weird because everyone said it was Memorial Day. The photo timestamps say May15th but who hosted it? Was it an agent? Was it NFL player Frank Gore? I guess we go with May 15th since we have the timestamps. Also, May 15th matches up with Alabama DT Marcell Dareus' already problematic timeline which alleges he went around the time of his mother's death(May 18th.) That being said, what do we make of Marvin Austin's May 29th tweet about The Liv? Another party? Was in the mood to quote some lyrics? I have no idea.
If Austin is the starting point he is also seen as patient zero who supposedly infected other players such as Dareus, Little and SCAR TE Weslye Saunders. Little was named fairly early by sources as the focus of the NCAA investigation alongside Austin. Little's father spoke with ACC Now and said his son went to Miami with Austin for spring break in March. Then the May 15th photos came to light. "Ah-ha," said the intepid ABCers, "Little lied, eligibility died!" Not really but why let what we actually know get in the way of good dance on a rival player's career grave. Besides this guy says Little was cleared. So did someone on the Inside Carolina message boards. Both are credible right? Of course the same guy who cleared Little also says CB Kendric Burney met agents in Atlanta, CB Charles Brown asked for money and a former Tar Heel was facilitating it all. Burney says it's all BS and the fact that tweet is still on the internet concerns me that UNC has not learned a darn thing in all of this.
As all this was going on at UNC, the NCAA launched multiple probes at the aforementioned SCAR, Florida, Alabama and Georgia. Joe Ovies at 99.9 The Fan rightly points out that this was not about the players but rather about the NCAA going Wyatt Earp on The Cowboy gang (agents). Players, who are not innocent mind you, end up being collateral damage in the NCAA's crusade of justice. Anyway, as the dragnet fell, Bama coach Nick Saban shook his fist at the sky and called agents pimps. Some agent responded with the equivalent of "I know you are but what am I?" Steve Spurrier defended Saunders which is going to look really stupid if Saunders ends up being guilty of something.
Back in Raleigh, NC Secretary of State and US Senate candidate Elaine Marshall decided going after evil agents was probably good for some free face time with the voters. I personally think this is a bad idea where UNC is concerned since it could keep the story on the radar even after the NCAA has finished their work. Who knows what Marshall might dredge up, something rival fans should bear it mind as they gleefully offer suggestions to Marshall on how to proceed. It would be a shame if Marshall's probe revealed agent gifts to NCSU or Duke players. In other words, be careful what you wish for.
As it stands Friday, the story is in flux and presently the media is regurgitating the same information back on itself in an almost comical fashion.
Hello darkness my old friend...
One underlying current in this entire scandal is the fact UNC has maintained radio silence sans announcing the probe and having Butch Davis speak at the Pigskin Preview. None of those opportunities provided any useful information about the NCAA probe. UNC's position from day one has been to do whatever the NCAA tells them to do and according to UNC's Steve Kirschner that is to refrain from commenting on the situation. This apparently did not sit well with local media types who need juicy official quotes to fill their stories. UNC has basically told them to pound sand. The N&O's Luke DeCock lamented the lack of verbal action from UNC head coach Butch Davis pointing out that other coaches had spoken out though they did not say anything substantive. DeCock also got a random NCAA media relations person to say schools could comment on investigations in an effort to contradict Kirschner's assertion. Kirschner basically said screw what other coaches have done, we know what our overlords told us and we are going to do exactly that. At any rate, Butch Davis' comments on Thursday at the Triangle Pigskin Preview were praised by DeCock as something UNC should have done a week ago. Okay, except someone explain to me what was so revealing about what Davis said besides the part about NCAA promising to move quickly? I guess saying something while saying nothing has value to the media. Since that is the case I suggest Roy Williams adopt this policy.
Butch Davis, QB T.J. Yates and DE Robert Quinn will be at ACC's media event this weekend. Expect them to continue saying plenty while saying nothing about the NCAA investigation.
Listening to the noise
This scandal is a clear indication of how the flow of information in the present media age now resembles rushing rapids. The bits and pieces have come so quickly on some days it is nearly impossible to make sense of the story due to conflicting items hitting the internet all at once. For most bloggers that is just fine. We love a good puzzle and love dropping breaking news posts in an effort to provide a fresh angle on the story. The media, especially the traditional wing, is having more trouble coping with the way this story has unfolded. Coupled with UNC's silence on the issue, outlets like the News and Observer find navigating the story a tad challenging. One of the main reasons being the story itself was quickly being built not on confirmed leads from trusted sources at UNC or the NCAA but Twitter accounts, internet rumor and photos. This might explain why when the Sunday(7/18) paper hit stands it did not mention the investigation at all. On top of that, the N&O had two articles on Dean Smith, two positive pieces on UNC football and one discussing the general suckitude of Wolfpack football recruiting. As you might imagine, this sent Wolfpack fans into a black helicopter sighting frenzy. On some levels it was justified. As the paper of record for the area, the N&O dropped the ball on covering the investigation in the one issue of their paper people read most. Some sort of mention of it would have been nice. What I am not sure of is how the process works over on McDowell St. or how difficult it is to rearrange already planned stories. Still, the visual of four UNC related stories and one negative article on NCSU was pretty damning if you were intent on proving the N&O is full of UNC journalism grads and biased. In short, the N&O should have done better. The letters to the editor this Sunday should be scathing to say the least.
Then again, how much does the print edition of any paper matter when it comes to a story that is sourced primarily from Twitter and evolving by the hour? Take the situation with Greg Little for example. On Tuesday it appeared he had only gone to Miami on spring break and his father paid for it. By the next morning there were pictures showing Little in Miami on May 15th. At that point the print edition was utterly worthless since the story had turned 180 degrees where Little was concerned. That is what makes this story fascinating and frightening at the same time. One one hand you think you know what is happening then your Tweetdeck chirps and suddenly you have no idea what the real story is. Journalists, message board posters and bloggers alike are all trying to make sense of a complicated situation. It is a total mess encompassing five major football programs, the behemoth NCAA, various media outlets and bloggers both credible and suspect alike. It is nearly impossible to draw an informed conclusion. The result is an increased flow of information flooding the system as everyone tries to keep their opinions up to date.
In other words, this is freaking awesome...well the whole process of discovering the story not what is happening to UNC.
Current Opinions(Subject to change)
Marvin Austin: I got to a point yesterday where I would not have batted an eye if Butch Davis had tossed Austin off the team. The stories out there, the tweets, the photos, the proof he helped design the O-rings for the solid rocker boosters used on Challenger. There was nothing but negative stories where Austin was concerned. A "positive" rumor or two to balance the books would have been nice. Aside from attributing the May 29th tweet so a song, it all appeared to be heading towards the end of Austin's UNC career. Now? I have no idea. In my honest opinion I think Austin did something wrong and a full season suspension would not shock me. However I could also see a scenario where the NCAA cleared everyone which would create a riot among Wolfpackers unlike the world has ever seen. That will be entertaining if it comes to fruition.
Greg Little: Despite assertions Little has been cleared, I am withholding celebrating until a ruling comes from Indianapolis. Part of that is the credibility of the reporting. The other part is no one is cleared until the NCAA says so. As it stands right now, the May 15th party could be trouble depending on who paid Little's expenses and whether agents were at the party. As I have already explained, Little, Sr. asserting his son went to Miami on spring break and the photo of Little in Miami on May 15th only means the Tar Heel senior went on two trips to South Beach. Based on the information in hand, I'd say it all comes down to what the NCAA determines the party on May 15th to be and whether Little took anything from anyone. The gut feeling right now is Little might be okay but I would not place any bets on that.
Kendric Burney and Charles Brown: Both were mentioned on the National Football Post as having contact with agents. Brown was said to have explicitly asked for money. The post maintains former Tar Heel Chris Hawkins advised both players. This is the same NFP post that says Little is cleared which is a rumor that appeared earlier on Inside Carolina's premium message board. I have no idea who Aaron Wilson uses for sources but I get that uneasy feeling that the information is not reliable. Accusations were made in the comments section of the post that Wilson simply lifted his information from message boards. The news about Little, which was posted at IC prior to the May 15th photos but posted by Wilson after said photos came to light gives one pause. As noted above, Kendric Burney flatly denied the assertion he went to Atlanta to meet with agents calling it "bs". As for what will happen to them? No clue. There is not enough information to determine what may happen to Burney, Brown or any other Tar Heel interviewed during the investigation.
Football program in general: Since this appears to be the work of the agent enforcement side of the NCAA and not the infractions committee, I think the program will escape harm. Thus far no one has brought to light anything that casts the UNC coaching staff and compliance office in a negative light. By all accounts UNC is fully cooperating. The general consensus is UNC has made an effort to curtail agent activity or at least make players aware of it. However, it is possible the NCAA may have found evidence of coaches looking the other way or improper education of players. I doubt this will be the case since Butch Davis has been a longtime opponent of agent contact with players still having college eligibility. Based on what we know I expect the NCAA will not charge the program or coaches with any violations but rather nail individual players who will be perceived as having acted on their own. As Joe Ovies said this will deny ABCers their "Christmas in July."
That is where we sit at the close of business on this the ninth day of the NCAA's siege on UNC football. Please note whatever you read in the first paragraph is probably worthless now.