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The Media Digging Into Hairston's SUV Rental Begins

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Ed Zurga

This was, of course, inevitable. A star college basketball player is arrested while driving an high-priced SUV which happens to be rented there will be questions. The Durham police report indicated there was a car rental agreement taken as evidence at the scene however no indication was given as to who's name is on it.

That is where the media usually jumps into it starting with Jason McIntyre at The Big Lead who did actually talk to Hertz about the rental

So UNC’s best player – arguably – is tooling around in a 2013 silver GMC Yukon. An entry-level 2013 GMC Yukon sells for $45,000. The report doesn’t say where the vehicle was rented from. I called all the rental car agencies in Durham and a GMC Yukon with the plates and serial number matching the one Hairston was driving belonged to Hertz.

According to an employee at Hertz in Durham who did not wish to give their name, you only need to be 20-years old and have a license to rent a car from that agency. Hairston is 20.

The cost to rent a 2013 GMC Yukon at that Hertz? About $245 a day (taxes, fees, etc). Who is footing that bill?

The next step was much more difficult: Who rented the car? Hertz wouldn’t say. [The Hertz corporate office asked me if I had a subpoena, then told me that information was only available to law enforcement agencies.] I was able to get one helpful female employee on the phone who said she would confirm the name of the renter to me if I said it. I mentioned all the names of the people in the car, but she said none of them had rented it. The other name I tried was a longshot: Alex Kellner.

Who is Alex Kellner?

Well, he owns the place Hairston and (his mother, perhaps) are currently renting Oakridge, North Carolina. Like I said, it was a longshot. [Hairston's address was listed in the police report; county tax documents listed Kellner as the owner.]

The Hertz agent said no, he wasn’t the one who rented the car.

What does it mean? Not much other than it reveals none of the occupants of the car that night rented the vehicle in question. Had one of the individuals arrested been the renter, there might be fewer questions though people would still wonder where the money to rent a high-end SUV came from. As it stands, the question of who rented the car and if it was an NCAA violation remains an open one.

If there is an NCAA issue, UNC compliance is(hopefully) already aware and addressing it. Since it is well known Hairston was driving a rental it stands to reason Hairston was asked about it and provided the relevant information to the compliance office. If NCAA rules were broken, then UNC will probably self-report the violation and let the chips fall where they may. If that is the case, a suspension would be in order based on the value of the benefit. If there is something NCAA-related with this, the hope is UNC will deal with it soon otherwise the rumor and questions will continue to build.

Then again, if there was no violation and the rental was legit, is UNC obligated to address it? You would think not but that is a perilous approach given the penchant of the media these days to publish insinuation as though it were fact. Strictly as a PR move it might benefit UNC to simply say they reviewed the case, consulted with the NCAA and no violation occurred. That is assuming they have and everything checked out.

For now, barring additional charges from the police against Hairston, the name on the rental agreement is the biggest issue facing UNC.