First of all, the original release from UNC which provides the basic details on what happened:
The university declared both student-athletes ineligible for violations of NCAA agent benefits and preferential treatment rules. According to the facts of the case submitted by the university, these benefits in part included trips to California, Atlanta and Las Vegas for Burney and two trips to California for Williams. The majority of the benefits Burney received were from an individual who meets the NCAA definition of an agent. According to NCAA rules, an agent is any individual who markets or promotes a student-athlete. The majority of Williams' benefits were preferential treatment violations associated with visiting a former North Carolina football student-athlete.
The basic violations are Deunta Williams and Kendric Burney received benefits in the form of trips to California, Atlanta and Las Vegas for Burney and just California for Williams. In the case of Burney he received benefits from an agent-like creature which was likely Chris Hawkins since there is a tweet floating out there from Burney referring to Hawkins and heading to Las Vegas with him. In the case of Williams, it was a visit to a former UNC athlete. Burney was also on the trip.
Robbi Pickeral at the N&O spoke with UNC AD Dick Baddour and he provided additional details:
"I don’t have his permission to use his name, but they met at Sutton's [in Chapel Hill],’’ Baddour said. "He’s a former defensive back, and they established a relationship. He’s in sales out in California, and he encouraged the guys to come out, because he wanted to be supportive … but he doesn’t have the resources to pay for anybody's expenses out there.
Baddour said during a phone interview that he could not say when the trips took place, "but in both situations, the expenses were understood to be the responsibility of the student-athletes. And the student-athletes paid the expenses while they were out there."The NCAA, however, determined not all the expenses were paid – thus, the amount ordered for the player to pay to charities.
In a prepared statement, Baddour said: "We plan to appeal the length of the suspensions. While I respect the NCAA process, I believe the penalties to be unduly harsh given the individual circumstances in these cases."
Asked this afternoon when the appeal would take place, Baddour said, "In order for it to be effective, it’s got to be soon. We’re ready to move as quickly as possible, and we’ll be working for the NCAA as soon as possible."
Baddour said he did not know about Burney or Williams’ trips to California before the broader NCAA investigation, which still has 10 Tar Heels either declared ineligible or withheld from playing in games until their status is determined. Baddour said that Burney and Williams were the only two who had taken trips to California in order to visit the former UNC defensive back.
Now the picture is clear as to why the suspensions were different. In the case of Williams it did not involve an agent or someone taking the form of an agent. Williams visited a former UNC player(identified by Mark Armstrong at WTVD as Omar Brown) he had met in Chapel Hill, thought he had accounted for the expenses for two trips but the NCAA disagreed so they leveled the four game suspension. The lack of agent contact and the fact Williams(plus UNC in all likelihood) thought everything was covered is why it was believed the senior safety would play vs LSU. Burney on the other hand basically had the same issue as Williams i.e. a visit to a former athlete's house and trips where he received benefits from Chris Hawkins. Had Burney only taken the trips to CA then he probably only gets four games. Hawkins, as Doc pointed out in the original post, was the aggravating factor. Since the NCAA considers him an agent, then Burney receiving anything from him is illicit thus the six game suspension. Again, the NCAA disagreed that both players had properly repaid the trips and levied the penalties. As you might imagine, Kendric Burney's father is six kinds of pissed at Hawkins over this. The elder Burney said he paid for parts of the trips to Las Vegas and Atlanta. According to him the amount the NCAA is asking his son to repay is for hotel rooms in both cities and gas for the trip to Atlanta. Burney's father also said had he known Hawkins had been classified as an agent he would have put a stop to any shenanigans. Yeah, that would have been nice.
What we can also glean from this is every player involved in these investigation has a different circumstance. In the case of Williams it was not agent related. In the case of Burney it did. It also proves(and I apologize for belaboring the point) that there is a lot of stuff we do not know. Reading the reports that were out prior to today everyone assumed this was about Gary Wichard, John Blake and Chris Hawkins. In the official disposition of Burney and Williams' cases only one of those individuals were involved with an individual no one heard of before being the other party. The media, message board and ABCers have all established story of what is happening here. As official details come out we are finding out that story may not be entirely correct.
As for each case being different there are two ways to view that. First, just because these cases were dealt with this way does not mean it will get worse from here. Burney and Williams had varying levels of involvement with different people. While you could argue the NCAA is adjudicating the simplest cases first it could also be that these are the two cases they finished reviewing first or had all their facts on first hence the decision. The other angle on this is the possibility you had as many as five or six players committing various violations with hardly any of them having to do with each other. William and Burney are connected with the CA trips but Williams was not connected to Hawkins. However it has been said Hawkins is connected to Charles Brown and possibly Robert Quinn. Then you have Greg Little and Marvin Austin who appear to be connected to Kentwan Balmer and possible Gary Wichard which may or may not be through former assistant coach John Blake. My point is I am not sure how having that many players committing violations individually is going to look to the NCAA when it comes to determining whether or not the program/coaching staff/athletic department was vigilant in compliance. I am not saying that will be the case because we do not know everything but in these two cases alone there is a piece no one knew anything about so the question begs to be asked are there other unknown situations like that?
One more note that qualifies as a bit of a rant. The NCAA has a penchant for handing down penalties that oftentimes do not line up with other precedent. They also never have to explain themselves or their logic such as it is. I would have less issue with penalties if the NCAA would own them by offering explanations as to why Player A gets six games but Player B gets two games. I guess they assumed it would be clear based on the circumstances but in my mind a organization that is judge, jury and executioner should also be accountable to the public as to why they do what they do.