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Where The Investigations Stand

It has been roughly three months since the NCAA opened a branch office at UNC. There have been rumors and facts mixing together to the point it is easy to lose track of which players are where in this process not to mention questions about the process itself. If that is you, then this post should clear things right up or leave you a drooling, blubbering mess. If it is the latter, then go outside because I am not cleaning it up. Here is the breakdown of what has happened so far.

If you will recall, there were initially 15 players labeled as either ineligible or withheld pending the conclusions of the investigations. FB Devon Ramsay was added to the withheld list prior to the Clemson game which brings the total number involved to 16.  Here is where everyone stands today.

Declared ineligible prior to the LSU game

Marvin Austin: Dismissed for receiving $10-13K in improper benefits; ethical conduct violation.
Robert Quinn: Permanently ineligible for receiving $5K in improper benefits, ethical conduct violation.
Greg Little: Permanently ineligible for receiving $5K in improper benefits, ethical conduct violation.
Kendric Burney: Suspended six games for improper benefits; academic status pending
Michael McAdoo: Academic status pending
Charles Brown: Academic status pending

Withheld prior to the LSU game

Bruce Carter: Cleared on academic issues for LSU game
Quan Sturdivant: Cleared on academics issues  for LSU game
Shaun Draughn: Cleared on academic issues for Georgia Tech game
Da'Norris Searcy: Cleared on academic issues for ECU game
Ryan Houston: Cleared following honor court date prior to UVa game. Possible redshirt.
Linwan Euwell: Cleared following honor court date prior to UVa game.
Deunta Williams: Suspended four games for improper benefits; became eligible for Clemson game.
Jonathan Smith: Declared ineligible for season following honor court date.
Brian Gupton: Declared ineligible for season following honor court date.

Additional players withheld

Devon Ramsay: Withheld prior to Clemson game for newly discovered academic issues; status unknown.


Initially it was assumed that the "ineligible" group was neck deep in NCAA violations whereas the "withheld" group was attached to the academic prong only. Dick Baddour said you could not draw that conclusion and he was correct. Deunta Williams was withheld and even thought a possibility to play vs LSU but instead was suspended four games. Michael McAdoo and Charles Brown were thought to have agent/improper benefits issues but since the rulings were made on Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn and Greg Little, UNC has indicated the remaining players are dealing with academic issues. At present there are four players on which we have no official word from UNC on their status: Burney, Brown, McAdoo and Devon Ramsay. Burney was thought to be cleared after his honor court date on Monday night but no official word has come and there appear to be additional details to iron out with his status. There is no official word on McAdoo, Brown or Ramsay though the rumor is McAdoo and Brown are done and Ramsay is fine on academics but made an inappropriate tweet which has him in Butch Davis' doghouse.

During this process, one question that has arisen is whether or not the players withheld and ultimately cleared were subjected to a de facto suspension for no reason. I posed the question of what can be inferred of a player's guilt or innocence in the academic prong to UNC's Kevin Best via email and this was his response:

First, every one of these cases is different and each punishment and/or non-punishment has been different.  You can infer that the individuals ruled on thus far in the academic misconduct did not commit any NCAA violations.  I can not discuss the honor court rulings.  In some instances the NCAA does not have to sign off or even discuss the clearances.  The honor court can rule 1) Innocent; 2) probation and allow students to represent UNC; 3) probation and not allow students to represent UNC; 4) Suspension from school.

In other words, the players withheld were all thought to be guilty of something. Also, the fact a player was cleared does not necessarily mean said player was found not guilty. In the case if Austin, Quinn, Little, Williams and Burney we know these five committed NCAA violations and the penalties for those violations have been meted out. The other 11 players involved are/were part of the academic prong and as Best points out we can infer no NCAA violations were committed.

What follows now is pure speculation on my part but reasonable given how the process has played out.
The first four players cleared in the academic prong were likely innocent of wrongdoing. I say likely because I have no way of knowing for sure. However, these four, to my knowledge, never faced the honor court and the timing of them being cleared seems to point to innocent. Carter and Sturdivant were cleared almost immediately which probably means there were questions about some of their academic work which were cleared up. The same is likely true of Shaun Draughn since he was cleared 10 days later. Da'Norris Searcy was rumored to have been held out because they were unable to contact one of his professors, who was in Africa. I am not sure how true that is but if my recollection of the timeline here is correct, I think Searcy was cleared prior to the student AG being given the findings. That means it is probable Searcy was cleared of any wrongdoing since his case never made it to the honor court.

The remaining individuals are believed to have faced or will face the honor court. Jonathan Smith was declared out for the season prior to the Clemson game which likely means the honor court employed option #3 on him. The same is probably true of Brian Gupton who is also out for the season following his honor court date. Linwan Euwell and Ryan Houston were both "cleared" to play football. However that does not mean they were innocent. It is possible they were found guilty, put on probation but still permitted to represent UNC. It is also possible both were innocent but since privacy laws preclude UNC from telling the public the outcome of the honor court rulings. With Burney still being held out that leaves four players needing to have their status cleared up one way or the other. According to McAdoo's Facebook account as quoted in the IC message board he also faced the honor court but received an unfavorable ruling. His status is still not known. It is unknown if or when Brown will face the honor court. No one knows for sure what is going on with Ramsay.

It is important to remember two things in the way this has played out. First of all, UNC was acting with an abundance of caution when it came to potential violations. The last thing UNC wanted to do was trot ineligible players onto the field which would create issues down the line. It would not be fair to the players who acted responsibly to have their accomplishments put at risk by putting ineligible players on the field. I know people say the NCAA vacating wins do not matter but I doubt the players feel that way, especially the 70 or so players who did what they were asked to do across the board. Secondly, Chancellor Holden Thorp said when the academic prong was revealed that the world would see how UNC handles this. Does it suck that players who may have done nothing wrong were withheld? Sure it does but quite frankly there are bigger stakes involved that a handful of players. UNC as a school and football program are on trial in the court of public opinion. How the administration responds to the two scandals speaks as much, if not more about the integrity of the school than anything else.

In fact this is the ultimate rebuttal to anyone who criticizes UNC as being a dirty program and a clear answer to the calls for an independent investigation. How seriously did UNC take these issues? They sat players out multiple games without fully knowing whether they were guilty or not. They intentionally hamstrung their football team to maintain integrity and make certain the team on the field was eligible to be there. And we should be absolutely clear on this point. It was UNC who made the decisions to hold players out. When it came to the five who committed NCAA violations, the NCAA has to rule on whether to reinstate or not. The decision to hold the other players out was in UNC's purview with some input from the NCAA. Yes, it sucks for everyone involved from the coaches down to the fans. However there is a "beds were made and now people need to sleep in them" element to all of this. NCAA violations were committed. At least some players were found to be guilty of academic infractions. Since that turned out to be the case I have a hard time criticizing UNC for going above and beyond to hold more players out. The facts and findings were extremely fluid in this case as the recent news about Devon Ramsay has proven. In my mind, UNC has acted responsibly in this scandal where the statuses of individual players are concerned.

At the end of the day you are likely looking at a total of 12 players who either committed actual NCAA violations or probably committed some sort of academic infraction. Of that group three are no longer on the team. Two other are done for the season due to academic issues. One player, Williams, sat four games for Mickey Mouse violations. Draughn lost a game and Searcy lost three while the details were worked out. Houston and Euwell both sat five games and faced the honor court. In all likelihood, Brown and McAdoo are done while Ramsay has other issues. Burney has served a six game suspension but still faces academic issues. In fact that last one is the ultimate testimony of UNC's handling because they could have easily swept Burney's academic issues under the rug and put him back on the field. Did they try to take care of it quietly as not to add another name to the academic scandal? Yes, but playing the PR game is a far cry from turning a blind eye to something Burney did wrong and hiding behind another violation.

In terms of the scope of these investigations, eight players with academic issues is not a scandal on the scale of what happened at Florida St. Five players with NCAA violations and three of them significant in dollar amounts presumably from agents is a major problem. Having an assistant coach receiving money from a  guy who makes coffee runs for Satan is an even bigger problem especially since said assistant had a habit of calling players from other teams in an apparent lobbying effort. There is Marvin Austin's involvement with Pro Tec, trips taken in 2009 which could result in vacated wins and who knows what else the NCAA has dug up. My point is there are parts of these two scandals that are big deals. The agent issues and Blake's connection to Wichard is probably on what the most serious charges hinge. As best as I can tell the NCAA is not involved in the academic scandal other than reviewing processes and procedures. The players caught up with academic issues are being punished then cleared by UNC internally and according to Best not guilty of NCAA violations. That is not to minimize the academic scandal. It is a damaging scandal that hurts the reputation of the university. At the same time UNC has handled it properly. They handled it by not bringing the tutor back in the first place when her inappropriate relationship with football players was revealed. UNC handled the academic investigation by pulling players and letting the honor court system run its course.

The lack of information and speed of all of this is worsened one hundred fold by a season in progress. If this were between January and June, no one would be as apprehensive. The current season and the need to get good players back on the field drives fan frustrations. When fans are frustrated the administration and AD often take the brunt of the criticism. As we reached the end of the phase involving individuals I think it is clear how most of this has been handled by UNC is for the best. I also think all the credit in the world goes to the team on the field for putting aside this mess, compensating for personnel losses and putting UNC in a position to make some noise down the stretch.