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Leslie McDonald Cleared to Play by the NCAA UPDATE: UNC Statement Added

Streeter Lecka

The NCAA has just announced that UNC fifth year senior guard has been cleared to play having served a nine game suspension for improper benefits.

On Dec. 17, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill men’s basketball student-athlete Leslie McDonald was cleared to compete in the school’s next competition. McDonald sat nine games and must repay $1,783 to a charity of his choice for receiving numerous impermissible extra benefits.

North Carolina discovered the rule violations on Oct. 24 and then submitted a reinstatement request to the NCAA for McDonald on Dec. 11. The NCAA then worked with North Carolina to finalize the facts before the university submitted its complete request for McDonald's reinstatement on Dec. 17.

According to the facts of the case, which were agreed upon by the university and the NCAA staff, McDonald accepted benefits from numerous individuals during the spring and summer of 2013. These benefits included the use of luxury cars, payment of parking tickets, a cell phone and lodging. McDonald must complete the repayment of impermissible extra benefits before the last regular season game, as this is his final season of eligibility.

"Out of concern for student-athletes safety and wellbeing, NCAA membership has created rules that limit improper third-party influence over student-athletes, and clearly state student-athletes cannot receive benefits based on their athletic ability," said Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs, whose staff handles reinstatement requests.

When a school discovers an NCAA rules violation has occurred, it must declare the student-athlete ineligible and may request the student-athlete’s eligibility be reinstated. The NCAA staff reviews each student-athlete reinstatement request individually based on its own merits and set of specific facts. At this time, McDonald’s reinstatement request is the only one the NCAA has received from North Carolina.

The most important line in the whole release might very well be the last one. UNC has not requested reinstatement for P.J. Hairston. That probably isn't a good sign for the possibility of seeing Hairston wearing Carolina blue again.

Based on the release, it appears there was some overlap of McDonald's case into the same violations that have Hairston sitting out. McDonald's improper benefits involved cars, parking tickets being paid, the infamous iPhone he received from Haydn "Fats" Thomas and some form of lodging.

With McDonald's return, UNC gets another wing player added to a very thin position on the court. McDonald will likely come off the bench and his addition should help the overall quality of UNC's depth.

UPDATE: Statement from UNC

University of North Carolina fifth-year senior guard Leslie McDonald has been re-instated by the NCAA and will return to action this evening (December 18th) against Texas after sitting out the team’s first nine games due to violating NCAA rules regarding impermissible benefits.

“We are certainly glad to have this issue resolved for Leslie,” says head coach Roy Williams. “It has been a terrible time for Leslie and his family and our basketball team. I was very disappointed by Leslie’s actions and he knows this. He has suffered the consequences of his actions and I hope he has learned a lesson that I also hope his teammates recognize. Leslie has been a sensational teammate and worked hard in practice to help our team. He understands what he has already lost and wants to really enjoy this second chance. Leslie has one more semester to contribute to our team and finish his degree. I feel sure he will be truly dedicated to accomplishing both of those goals.”

“I feel blessed to play again for Carolina,” says McDonald. “I truly regret putting my family, UNC and my teammates and coaches through this. I apologize to everyone who cares about the University of North Carolina and will do what I can to make up for it. You never know how much you love to play the game until you are not allowed to. I learned that two years ago when I hurt my knee and had to sit out an entire season. I hated going through it again, but it was a result of the mistakes I made. I am going to enjoy every minute of this second chance and play as hard as I can to help my teammates and coaches as they have helped me.”

“Eligibility issues are some of the most important ones we face in college athletics because they directly impact so many people,” says Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham. “These issues have had an effect on not only Leslie, but his coaches, teammates and everyone who supports our program. He made some mistakes and faced serious consequences as a result, but I am glad for Leslie that he is able to return. We all must learn from these situations and avoid the kind of problems that could jeopardize eligibility and our program’s success.”

McDonald has played in 100 games as a Tar Heel, scoring 581 points and made 104 three-pointers. Last season, he appeared in 30 games and averaged 7.2 points with a career high 24 against UAB