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UNC and Nassir Little remain unscathed as FBI trial winds down

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Relax. Also, LOL at State.

High School Basketball: McDonalds High School All American Games Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Today, the FBI’s trial against Adidas executives Jim Gatto and Merl Code, and wannabe agent/middleman Christian Dawkins reaches its conclusion. Closing arguments will be heard in a few hours, and a verdict could arrive as early as tomorrow afternoon. The past two weeks have been full of cryptic text messages, hazy recollections of vague conversations, and plenty of prominent players and coaches hearing their names dropped in federal court.

Note: If you have time, check out Dan Wetzel’s work over on Yahoo! Sports and his twitter feed. He’s provided the most comprehensive coverage since the trial began. Adam Zagoria compiled some of the most informative articles from around the country on his own www.zagsblog.com.)

Since the initial arrests last year of 10 coaches, executives, and role players in college basketball’s recruiting underworld, North Carolina fans have been cautiously optimistic that the Heels would remain relatively untouched. Arizona, Oklahoma State, Southern California, and Auburn were the first schools to be named in the FBI probe. Other schools, such as Kansas, Oregon, and Creighton also heard their names mentioned throughout the proceedings.

So far, the ramifications on these programs are unknown. With the exception of Louisville, who fired Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich, all head coaches remain employed. Most of the evidence is, at best, circumstantial in a court of law. Even by the NCAA’s insane and inconsistent standards, many of the accusations mentioned in court will be hard to pin to coaches and active players. At this point, I’d be surprised if heavy sanctions are handed down to a majority of the implicated programs.

N.C. State, of course, being the one exception. They are the only program in which a coach allegedly had direct involvement in paying a player. Adidas runner T.J. Gassanola testified that former Wolfpack assistant Orlando Early received $40,000 to deliver to Dennis Smith Jr’s family. If true, that is certainly a special kind of stupid. Here’s a quick reminder how that decision worked out for them.

Joel Berry was right. How is this considered a rivalry by anyone under the age of 35?

However, State’s ineptitude wasn’t the best news for North Carolina. No, the true cause for celebration is the exoneration of Nassir Little in this entire affair. Most will remember that Little was largely lumped together with all those involved by what is best described as guilt by association. Anxiety briefly returned when his name was on a pre-trial list of people who could be mentioned during the proceedings.

To absolutely nobody’s surprise, with the exception of salty rival fans on social media and a few disappointed members of the media, it was all completely overblown.

Little’s AAU coach, Brad Augustine, was one of the original suspects arrested last fall. The FBI accused him of funneling money to players and/or their families in exchange for their commitment to certain programs. One of those players was UNC freshman, Nassir Little. Those charges were eventually dropped after Augustine told federal authorities that he never intended to give any money to players or their families.

That’s it. That is the only link of Nassir Little in this entire ordeal. Neither he, his family, or UNC has ever been accused of any inappropriate or illegal action. That has not stopped his name from constantly being mentioned in the same breath as the alleged perpetrators in the entire ordeal.

The Littles have remained adamant, often going on the offensive, about their lack of participation in these pay-for-play schemes. Little and his family even signed affidavits stating they never asked for, or received, any money in exchange for his commitment to a particular institution. Nassir’s father, Harold who is an active voice on Twitter, has never shied away from setting the record straight. As far back as last September when news of the investigation first broke, he was responding to media and trolls.

This week, as reported by Adam Zagoria, text messages between Dawkins and Augustine solidified what Little’s family has said all along. Not only were they unaware of the shenanigans taking place, but the Little’s weren’t for sale even if they had been offered. Audio recordings played in court on Tuesday also show no evidence of wrongdoing by Little or UNC. Here are Zagoria’s tweets about this development, so you can draw your own conclusions.

In other words, the family’s reputation, character, and integrity were a non-negotiable obstacle to Dawkins and Augustine’s intentions. The elder Little confirmed as much in an interview with Sherrell McMillan of Inside Carolina on Tuesday. If your excitement for this young man to be part of the Tar Heel family wasn’t already at max capacity, these developments should help you get there.

As the trial progressed, Harold maintained his twitter presence. Here are a few of my favorite responses to critics and trolls.

And lastly, here’s Nassir Little’s response.

So, let’s put all of this to rest. UNC remains unscathed. Nobody will lose eligibility. The NCAA is not coming back to Chapel Hill. Nassir Little is ready to put the college basketball world on notice. Harold Little will not put up with any fools.

This year is going to be so much fun.

Go Heels.