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Robert Quinn Tells All

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While UNC has been perfectly willing to tell the public as little as possible about the NCAA investigation, a player caught up in the scandal who saw his college career crushed has no such restrictions. So Robert Quinn decided to sit down with The Sporting News and pull back the curtain on the NCAA investigatory process that led to his permanent ineligibility.

Needless to say, I  don't think this casts anyone involved in a particularly flattering light.

Tactics used by the NCAA during the investigation that led to the permanent ineligibility of former North Carolina football player Robert Quinn raise questions about the organization’s methods in gathering information on student-athletes.

In an exclusive Sporting News interview, Quinn said he was in at least his second face-to-face interview with an NCAA investigator when the investigator asked if he could see the cell phone resting on Quinn’s leg. Quinn looked to the UNC attorney for advice, and he said to hand it over. Quinn did.

Only then did the player’s violations come to light: The NCAA investigator scrolled through Quinn’s private messages, asking him who each person was. He eventually came across a text about thousands of dollars in jewelry Quinn had accepted from an agent.

Was it an aggressive and intrusive move by the NCAA, or a necessary one for an organization bent on tightening the reins on illegal agent activity?

Julie Roe Lach, NCAA vice president of enforcement, defended the investigator’s actions. She points out the changing culture of communication that has prompted such approaches.

“As long as we ask, and the student-athlete provides it, that's appropriate,” Lach said. “The other option we can do is, we can always ask for phone records.

I have not checked IC yet but I imagine the rage being vented in the general direction of the UNC administration for being so cooperative that a UNC lawyer told Quinn to hand over his cell phone without such much as a whimper of objection is probably at about 15 on a scale of 1 to 10. Two humorous but spot-on responses to this bit from Twitter came from Bomani Jones who said you should never trust someone else's lawyer and Joe Ovies who said "hire SEC lawyers."

It was well known UNC basically bent over the moment the NCAA walked in the door. The UNC administration believed cooperation, such as tossing Quinn's privacy out the window so the NCAA investigator could look at his personal phone, would score UNC extra brownie points and earn them a lighter penalty. It still might in the program infractions phase. As for the NCAA"s handling of individual cases, I have not seen were the cooperation has mattered much, if at all. There have been small gifts like Kendric Burney getting a waiver to play after he lost credit hours or the fact UNC got to keep to two wins in which Devon Ramsay played. Outside of that, the NCAA has been letter of the law brutal to UNC players, even on the trivial crap like Deunta Williams' crashing at Omar Brown's house.

Quinn also maintains that he never directly lied when asked questions[Note: An extrapolation on my part so I am removing it] the NCAA never asked nor did he volunteer information about gifts he had received.  It would seem Quinn's motivation in omitting the information was not an effort to conceal but because he did not know he had actually committed violations.

On July 12 and 13, NCAA investigators interviewed Quinn and UNC players. The NCAA did not know or ask about the jewelry, and Quinn did not volunteer anything about it. Unaware of the questioning that had begun, North Carolina sent Quinn as one of two players to represent the team at the preseason ACC media day on July 25.

On August 4, the NCAA interviewed Quinn again. This time the investigator went through Quinn’s phone. Two months later, on Oct. 11, the NCAA declared Quinn permanently ineligible, saying he had accepted $5,642 in improper benefits and lied to investigators.

In addition to the jewelry charges, Quinn is accused of going to dinner with a financial adviser, accepting accommodations to Miami and attending an agent-thrown party there.

Quinn said he went to dinner with the financial adviser because he didn’t know it was against the rules. He said he paid his own way to Miami and that the party he attended was separate from the one thrown by an agent.

Quinn said he did would not have accepted the jewelry if he knew it was a violation.

“All they talk about is, don’t take nothing from agents, don’t take nothing from agents. They beat that into my head. OK — this dude’s not an agent,” he said. “I wouldn’t purposely do something wrong knowing it could jeopardize myself.”

Asked whether he thinks the jeweler gave him the items with the hope Quinn would buy more items in the future, Quinn says no, and that he believes the jeweler was simply being friendly.

A couple of things jump out here.

First, UNC did not know Quinn was being questioned by the NCAA on July 12th and 13th? Or UNC did not have reason to believe Quinn was in trouble because the NCAA had not asked certain questions. Quinn's presence at ACC media day has always confused me because I assumed UNC would not be stupid enough to send a player who was under NCAA scrutiny leading me to conclude Quinn was clear. That is unless UNC did not know there was anything to worry about. We do know the NCAA talked to a lot of players, some of which have never been tagged with any NCAA violations.Apparently, the NCAA did not ask Quinn questions about specific gifts, Quinn did not volunteer information since he did not think he had done anything wrong and UNC assumed he was clear so they sent him to ACC media day. After that Quinn is interviewed a second time by the NCAA who then probes into his text messages and finds damning evidence to use against him. That basically means the first interview with Quinn produced nothing and UNC proceeded as though Quinn was clear. Otherwise, you have a contradiction with previous statements from UNC that they were assisting the NCAA with interviews. That assistance included making players available which tells me UNC knew Quinn was being interviewed. Until the phone probe, nothing had been discovered. Unless I am missing something, back-to-back nights of listening to Jimmy Dykes and Dick Vitale has done untold damage to my cognitive abilities.

Update: The article has since been changed to amend the first paragraph and eliminate any confusion on when and what UNC knew about the NCAA questioning Quinn. The article now says :

UNC was confident enough in Quinn's status that it sent him as one of two players to represent the team at the preseason ACC media day on July 25.

That makes more sense and follows the logic I originally laid out that the NCAA never got specific with their questions while Quinn never offered up any information on improper benefits. The result was a whole lot of nothing where Quinn was concerned until the NCAA started scrolling through Quinn's phone.

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The second issue is Quinn's assertion that admonishments against accepting gifts was limited to agents only. Please tell me that's not the case, because if true, this makes UNC look really bad. In this day and age I would hope a compliance office worth their weight in gold would tell players to NOT ACCEPT GIFTS FROM ANYONE, ANYWHERE, ANYTIME AND FOR THE LOVE OF DICK CRUM IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTION AT ALL WHETHER IT BE A QUARTER OR A BLACK DIAMOND WATCH YOU DARN WELL BETTER TALK TO US FIRST!!!!!!

If that was not happening, then someone needs to answer why the heck not? The statement also cuts both ways. On one hand, you can argue UNC was doing its part to address agent issues and educating players on the dangers of gifts from agents. On the other hand, it can be said UNC was not doing enough to address runners, ALCs, financial advisers and apparently generous jewelers from Miami. Actually, the last bit has me thinking Quinn is operating with a little bit of naivete here if he believed someone would give him expensive jewelery just because. I also would lay some blame on Quinn for not exercising more common sense than to accept expensive gifts of any sort even if UNC failed to be specific beyond agents.

The question we at THF always ask with articles like this is whether it changes the status quo of what we know or what we think might happen next in the ongoing NCAA investigation.  Given the NCAA is willing to ignore whole bylaws to declare Heisman Trophy frontrunners eligible, I have no idea whether this information matters or not in the probable coming program sanctions. As I said, Quinn indicates UNC instructed players to not accept gifts from agents but at the same time Quinn implies UNC did not educate them beyond that. The picture of Quinn's interview shows the NCAA is willing to dig into a player's personal life to find a violation and UNC believed allowing them to do so would help their case.

The latter aspect might be the part that bugs me most, especially when you consider the Cam Newton case. UNC, apparently, went to great lengths to give the NCAA anything they wanted. They were going to be the anti-USC. Full cooperation or bust. How did that work out? To this point, I would say pretty craptastic. Now if the NCAA comes back with a slap on the wrist for the program then you could argue it was worth it for the school as a whole which, incidentally, is who the lawyer was most concerned about when he told Quinn to give up his phone.

The more intriguing thought here is what would have happened to Quinn had he said no. If the NCAA never sees the text messages do they find any damaging evidence on Quinn? Does he end up playing? Obviously he broke rules and should be punished. However the severity of his punishment was predicated on the notion he lied to the NCAA. Quinn says he didn't, at least not directly to any questions but the fact he did not volunteer information means the NCAA thought he was deceptive. A tough stance for sure but one that means they do not get bogged down trying to discern motives.

Besides ignorance of the rules or the violation is not an excuse, unless you are a Heisman Trophy frontrunner at Auburn.