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UNC and the FBI: No need to worry right now

The newest report about the FBI investigation names two former Tar Heels. Why should UNC fans not be concerned?

NCAA Basketball: Bucknell at North Carolina Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a college basketball fan, have a pulse, and use the internet you have already seen the “bombshell” report by Pete Thamel and Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports. You can read it here, but the main takeaway is that sports agency ASM Sports potentially provided impermissible benefits to high school and college players.

In some cases, those benefits were as harmless as dinner meetings that were less than $100. Two former UNC players, Brice Johnson and Tony Bradley, are listed on expense reports attributed to Christian Dawkins. A lunchwith the mother of Duke’s current starting forward Wendell Carter is also listed. Dawkins was one of the 10 men arrested in connection with the FBI investigation last fall.

Other potential benefits included loans that reached tens of thousands of dollars. This includes NC State’s former point guard Dennis Smith Jr, who is named in various documents as having received over $70,000 from the agency.

What does all of this mean for UNC?

Honestly, at this time with what we actually know, not a lot. It’s laughable and insulting that this report tries to list dinners that players (or their families) had with agencies in the same category as players receiving thousands of dollars in loans. A player having a meal with an agent is not a violation. A player’s parents having a meal with agents, is not a violation. Being listed on an expense report is not a violation.

There are certainly some eye-catching names and programs listed in the “report”, but as it relates to North Carolina (and even Duke), this is akin to yelling “Fire!” in a movie theater, when there isn’t even smoke.

Tony Bradley’s father has already addressed their situation to Inside Carolina. The explanation? Pizza. After Bradley had declared for the draft. And Tony Bradley apparently wasn’t even present.

In Johnson’s case, the alleged dinner happened on March 1, 2016 at a Carraba’s. It was expensed for $100.09 as “Dinner w/ Brice Johnson/Dion Bathea”. Brice Johnson’s AAU coach was Dion Bethea. Multiple meetings regarding other players use the same “Player Name/3rd Party” identifier.

A few quick questions immediately come to mind.

Were those other players present at these meetings in the middle of the basketball season, or are their names there just to identify who the meeting was about?

And which Carraba’s location? Did Bethea visit Chapel Hill four days before UNC defeated Duke in Cameron 76-72?

Is there evidence that Johnson did not pay for his own meal?

Even if he did accept one free meal, $100.09 split between three people seems pretty insignificant for the NCAA, right?

Correct.

There is even a rule the NCAA uses for potential impermissible benefits under $200. Bylaw 16.01.1.1 (Restitution for Receipt of Impermissible Benefits) states:

“Unless otherwise noted, for violations of Bylaw 16 in which the value of the benefit is $200 or less, the eligibility of the student-athlete shall not be affected conditioned upon the student-athlete repaying the value of the benefit to a charity of his or her choice. The student-athlete, however, shall remain ineligible from the time the institution has knowledge of receipt of the impermissible benefit until the student-athlete repays the benefit. For violations of Bylaw 16 in which there is no monetary value to the benefit, violations shall be considered institutional violations per Constitution 2.8.1; however, such violations shall not affect the student-athlete’s eligibility.”

That is from the NCAA manual. You can click on the hyperlink above, and read if for yourself.

Roy Williams said last week that he was very comfortable about the entire situation.

Today’s news does nothing to challenge that assertion.