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Making Sense of the Past Two Days

I know, I know. The title of this post implies sense can be made of what has transpired over the past two days, but I'm not sure that's possible.

THF has an accounting of Thursday's events here. My take on all this after the jump.

In summary, here's what we have learned in the past two days:

  • The NCAA dropped the apparent maximum suspension on Deaunta Williams for paying for some of a trip to visit a former player, but not all of the trip;
  • The NCAA went off the reservation in delivering Kendric Burney a greater-than-max six-game suspension for receiving benefits from an ALC (agent-like creature);
  • Holden Thorp revealed the tutor at the center of the academic prong did not have her contract with academic support renewed at the end of the 2009 school year because she was too friendly with players;
  • Players implicated in the academic prong have reportedly been handed over to the Honor Court; and
  • The NCAA must really hate Chris Hawkins.

As it relates the the suspensions, I am not among those spewing venom at the NCAA because I had no expectation the NCAA would act fairly, quickly, or judiciously in this matter. The organization is not exactly known for its consistency in the dispensation of justice, so no one should be surprised that the NCAA dropped its previously stated maximum penalty based on the amount of benefits on Williams and its heretofore unknown double-secret supermax penalty on Burney.

As someone who once worked with NCAA compliance, I am somewhat taken aback at the severity of the penalty given the fact that the athletes in question apparently paid for part of their trips but not all. As Baddour suggested today, a portion of the appeal is based on the fact that when a player pays for his flight and parts of the trip, there would seem to be little evidence to show the trips were taken with the expectation of improper benefits.

In Williams' case, the person he went to visit, Omar Brown, isn't even an agent and has no connection to agents. Given the fact that Brown is not an ALC and Williams paid for portions of the trip, it now makes sense that Williams was expected to be cleared early in the investigation. But the NCAA decided he received extra benefits, such as staying at Brown's house and possibly including tickets to Disneyland. Really? How Mickey Mouse can the NCAA get?

Look, the rule on benefits is there and Baddour says UNC's players have been educated on it, but let's be real: When you foot the bill for the flights to California and various parts of the expenses of the trip, are you really considering crashing at someone's place an extra benefit? How about if you graduated in 2010 and had a bunch of your boys - recent grads and current students -  to your family's beach house at Topsail for the week in July, and one of your boys is a football player. If the football player doesn't pay you for the stay, has an extra benefit been received? One caller to 99.9 The Fan this afternoon said his daughter dates an ECU football player and he only half-jokingly wondered if he should charge the guy for food and lodging when he comes home with his daughter. It's a short step from accountability to absurdity in this case.

As for Burney, he was shown to have taken trips to Atlanta, Las Vegas, and California. The NCAA determined the value of his extra benefits to be $1,333. Now I'm no mathematician, but 1300 bucks divided over three trips is not exactly making it rain or coming like it's a giveaway, if you know what I mean. Burney's father says he paid for the trips and the results would seem to bear that out.

The NCAA itself provided the guidelines for suspensions for improper benefits, and benefits over $1000 equates to a suspension of 30% of the season, or four games. Williams' suspension falls within those parameters, as does the recent case of Middle Tennessee quarterback Dwight Dasher, who accepted an improper loan of $1500 from someone not connected to the school. Dasher is said to have repaid the loan but the NCAA upheld the 4-game penalty. Still, nowhere do the guidelines suggest a 50% suspension, which is what Burney received.

In addition, the NCAA has been inconsistent in its application of the other improper benefits cases from this summer. Alabama's Marcel Dareus received only two games (when the guidelines would suggest four) despite receiving benefits than anyone named so far, and Georgia's A.J. Green received a four-game suspension for taking $1000 for his game jersey, although the guidelines call for a 20% penalty, or 3 games, for that amount.

The connection between Green and Burney, who received greater-than-expectedsuspensions, is Chris Hawkins. Burney's father suggested the NCAA is punishing Burney for his connection to Hawkins. In addition, Burney's father said neither he nor Burney had any idea Hawkins was considered an ALC by the NCAA. Of course the burning questions here are A) When was Hawkins declared ALC and B) Would Green and Burney have had any reasonable expectation to know that. Apparently the NCAA thinks yes and is tagging extra time onto their sentence because of it.

Yeah, like THF said - Marcus Wilson is doing a bang-up job of protecting UNC, isn't he, ABCers?

As for the tutor at the center of Tutor-gate, an early theory was that she had gone rogue somehow, and Thorp's comments appear to back that up. Thorp told the UNC Board of Trustees today that the tutor had become too friendly with players in violation of academic support guidelines and her contract was not renewed. Again, this would seem to fit with the facts that were previously known. More important, while the academic allegations are serious, they do seem to be confined to this situation and do not appear to be systemic in nature.

Meanwhile, those involved in the academic prong have been sent to the Honor Court for adjudication. A number of reports have suggested this occurred earlier in the week and the student attorney general has 30 days in which to act . I can't imagine given the spotlight on this situation that it will take that long to make it happen.

With information as hard to come by as rain in the Triangle over the past month, what has come out in the past two days is a deluge. But I would take a Baddour-like tone in saying this: Do not read too much into the order in which these cases are dealt with. Clearly the NCAA is dealing with issues as they have enough information to process them and rule, and the fact that these two were done first may or may not have any bearing on the severity of the unresolved cases. Again, the NCAA is not known for expedience or efficiency. But at least we're moving forward and just like the rain that may be coming, more answers may be soon coming as well.