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Monday Ruminations And Highly Speculative Ramblings

And we wait...

Just a blogging note. We would love to actually cover the football side of things with a nice preview of the season, predictions. Doc started last week with a preview of the schedule before the train went right off the tracks following the revelations of possible academic violations. It is pretty much impossible for us to discuss what kind of season UNC is going to have since we have no idea who is going to take the field for the Heels at any point this season. The worst case is most of the defense ends up being deep sixed along with Greg Little. Best case is 2-3 guys at most, maybe for only a few games. With that kind of uncertainty we really cannot make an accurate prediction at this point. We could speak hypothetically which was easier if you were speaking of only Marvin Austin or Greg Little. With so many other players out there who could miss games writing a preview would be too much like trying to nail jello to a wall.

As far as latest news goes there really isn't any. According to ACC Now, Marvin Austin broke his silence via Facebook last night or at least by all accounts it appears to be Austin.

"I came back to school to have my character questioned..[expletive]..i thought education was key.. I dont really understand...i though it was the right thing to do..maybe i was mistaken," the message said. "...i like to say thanx to all those who stand by me i really appriecate [sic] it. oh yea and to those who wanna see me fall i wont cause i dont great athletes stay on their feet!!!!!

Read into that what you will. It sounds a bit like a farewell 0f sorts, especially with the "thank you" to those who supported Austin. It is unclear if Austin knows his fate at this point but most of the signs still point to either a length suspension(four games) or something worse.

As for the rest of the team, Robbi Pickeral at the N&O indicated player travel to Atlanta would be contingent on which rules were broken: UNC or NCAA.

Depending on how deep the inquiries have gone, players could be tagged for breaking NCAA rules, school rules or both.

If a player is ineligible for competition per NCAA guidelines, the school cannot pay for any travel expenses, UNC senior associate athletic director Larry Gallo explained via e-mail Sunday. If the player travels on his own dime, the NCAA allows him to be on the sideline at the school's discretion, but not in uniform.

However, if a player is suspended for breaking a school rule, but remains eligible for competition per NCAA guidelines, he can travel with the team and can be in uniform, if the school permits.

The institution makes those sideline/uniform decisions on an individual, case-by-case basis, Gallo wrote.

Butch Davis said in his press conference players will travel if they can play. That being said, Dick Baddour said last week they could end up clearing players right up to game day which stands to reason players will travel unless they know they are not going to be cleared by Saturday.

Now this UNC rules vs NCAA rules gets into an area that I have been tossing around in my head all weekend. When UNC discovered the tutor's name via a player interview, they informed the NCAA there could be academic issues and the NCAA blessed UNC's efforts to track down the infractions. The question I had was why the NCAA is allowing UNC to take the lead on this? The answer is no one knows for sure whose rules were broken. The NCAA has rules pertaining to athlete academic eligibility[Note: This info comes from a document dated 2-3 years ago, standards may have changed.] There is the initial determination when the athlete enters school. Once an athlete has matriculated there are also minimal GPA, number of hours attempted/credits earned per semester and progress towards graduation requirements. In your freshman year you need to have a GPA of 1.8 or higher to be eligible.  The NCAA rules slide the GPA up so by your senior season you need a 2.0 to be eligible for competition. What the NCAA does not get into is how those grades are attained. As long as you are earning sufficient grades according to the school grading standards , take the correct number of hours, earn the minimal number of credits and show degree progress, you are eligible in the eyes of the NCAA. On top of the NCAA rules, the school generally has rules for athletes to help them stay ahead of the NCAA rules. For example, when I was at UNC Greensboro all freshman athletes were required to attend study hall a few nights a week during their first semester. If an athlete posted a GPA of 2.0 or higher then you were excused from study hall unless your GPA dropped back below 2.0. Then you have the general academic rules that apply to all students commonly known as the honor code. If a player were to violate the school honor code and get caught that would obviously have an impact on their grades, credits earned, etc.

Take this current case(and note I am speculating here.) If UNC Player A submitted a paper written by a former tutor during the 2010 spring semester and has now been caught then UNC would follow its own policies to deal with the student in question. The result might be voiding his grades which could kill his GPA, cost him needed credits, etc thus making him ineligible by NCAA rules. Since the player has yet to play in a game since the infraction occurred the compliance office would deem them ineligible and the NCAA would not take action. However, if UNC Player A committed honor code violations in the 2009 spring semester and UNC executes discipline which renders them ineligible according to NCAA standards then you have a larger issue. Since said player would have played for UNC during the 2009 football season the NCAA would have to step in and make a ruling for use of an ineligible player. In short, UNC is presently conducting an internal review of possible academic violations of university policy with an eye towards NCAA rules. If UNC uncovers violations that create eligibility issues in past games then it becomes an NCAA issue. If UNC finds widespread corruption in their academic support program affecting multiple sports that will require NCAA intervention as well. Of course it is probably easier for UNC to use its staff to deal with professors and what not than the NCAA which is another reason why this is being handled in house first before turning it over to the NCAA.

Bearing that in mind, the other question I have is whether the tutor in question was employed by UNC at the time she allegedly assisted players or was she acting as an independent person who knew the players from her previous position with the academic support program? It is an important distinction. If she was outside the academic support role then it is likely that part of the athletic department is clean. At that point you are talking about a situation where players are using 3rd party individuals to get their academic work done. Is that shocking that players would use fellow or former students to help them with papers? Probably not since the same thing happens across the student population as a whole. Raise your hand if you have ever done school work for a friend or had a friend do something for you? How many of you have copied off another test paper in the room, use a cheat sheet and generally cut corners because you did not study the night before? My point is it happens. It happens at UNC. It happens everywhere. Now, UNC should not get a pass on this because someone decided to flip the log over to discover any number of nasty creatures underneath. These are the breaks more or less. This is like sitting in a group of ten cars on the interstate running 15 mph over the speed limit and because you have an expired tag the police single you out for the ticket. UNC had one issue crop up and it lead other issues being discovered. This is what happens when the NCAA starts digging around. The seedy underbelly gets exposed and since it is out there for the world to see, it must be dealt with. In an ideal world you hope your team is maintaining a high standard where these kinds of issues are concerned. For the most part I think UNC does it right in the areas they can control. Again, this is why it is important to know whether the individual accused of aiding players was on her own or still employed. The latter is under UNC's control but what she does or did on her own is not. When you are talking about players going off on their own to get work done by individuals outside the official system how does anyone police that? In some respects it is the same issue as agent contact. You can educate the players, you can encourage them to do the right thing. You can offer them all the assistance the rules allow in hopes they do not feel the need to act in an illicit manner. However at the end of the day we all find out any given athletic season is hinged on 18-22 year old athletes making good choices.

With those odds it is a wonder more schools aren't in trouble than we see now.

Author's Note: Just a further, explicit disclaimer. It is the position of THF that UNC should follow all NCAA rules and the athletes wearing the uniform should do the same. We also believe that if anyone breaks NCAA or university rules they should be punished accordingly. Just because everyone is doing it does not mean UNC should nor should they be excused. However, we also acknowledge that in a world where moral compromises are easily brokered rules will be bent or crushed in the name of expediency, laziness and the almighty dollar. We wish it were different and we hope this leads to real reform. And yes, we'd be lying if we were not a tad frustrated UNC got caught but as stated above, those are the breaks. The only thing UNC can do now is the right thing which actually has more to do with PR than anything else but that is sad discussion for another time.