UNC hit with one-year postseason ban, reduction of scholarships
Posted March 12, 2012
Chapel Hill, N.C. — The NCAA Committee on Infractions announced Monday that it would tack on a year’s probation, a postseason ban and the reduction of six additional scholarships to the already self-imposed penalties by the University of North Carolina stemming from nine major violations committed by the football program.
In all, UNC’s punishment becomes:
* No postseason participation following the 2012 season – ACC championship game and bowl game
* Three years of probation from March 12, 2012, through March 11, 2015
* Loss of 15 scholarships over three seasons
* Vacancy of all 16 wins from the 2008 and 2009 seasons
* $50,000 fine
The NCAA also gave former assistant coach John Blake a three-year show cause punishment for failing to report $31,000 in outside income while he was "either employed or compensated by the sports agent." The show cause prohibits any recruiting activity by Blake making obtaining a job in the NCAA coaching ranks very difficult during the imposed period.
The NCAA Committee on Infractions needed 19 weeks and three days from the time they met with UNC representatives in Indianapolis to decide on the punishment for student-athlete academic improprieties, agent dealings and the acceptance of improper benefits.
Blake was cited by the NCAA as a major factor in the delay of their announcement saying that Blake agreed to provide records at the October hearing in Indianapolis. At the hearing, Blake said he could provide further information, but did not do so until Feb. 12.
"The committee felt it was important to give the assistant coach time to give all the information to the committee and we gave him time to do so," they said.
The NCAA said that the committee was never presented with a charge of "Lack of Institutional Control", but an allegation of "Failure to Monitor" was presented. Either charge would have likely added to the punishment handed forth by the NCAA.
As a result of the bowl ban, UNC Football senior will now be eligible to transfer without NCAA penalty.
In September, UNC self-imposed two years of probation and a loss of nine scholarships, which the NCAA deemed to be too light. The NCAA agreed that the fine and the vacated wins were adequate. UNC made no suggestion of forfeiting a bowl appearance in their voluntary punishment although former athletic director Dick Baddour said they considered it.
At the time of the self-imposed sanctions, Baddour said, “We were very serious in our approach. We looked at similar situations at other schools, and we thought it was an appropriate response.”
The COI repeatedly said that the cooperation by UNC was considered in determining the punishment and indicated that the the university did so fully.
"“It’s been almost two years since this investigation began, so getting the NCAA ruling is a big step in moving forward," said Chancellor Holden Thorp in a statement Monday. "We approached this investigation the way that you would expect of Carolina – thoughtfully, thoroughly and with full cooperation – and that was the right thing to do."
UNC has the option of appealing the punishment, but said they will not do so.
"We considered an appeal," Thorp said. "But given the timing and the record that other schools have had with appeals, as well as the fact that penalties are suspended during an appeal,we’ve decided it’s best to accept our sanctions and move forward.”
Fourteen players missed some or all of the games played in the 2010 season. The NCAA declared two of them, wide receiver Greg Little and defensive end Robert Quinn, permanently ineligible, and UNC kicked a third, defensive tackle Marvin Austin, off the team.
When asked about Butch Davis and the $2.7 buyout for being dismissed "without cause", Baddour said, "Absolutely, he gave full cooperation. Butch was interviewed, he cooperated and we felt the dismissal without cause was the best option we had."
In a statement issued late Monday, Davis said that he is glad the process is over and reittereated his innocence.
"As was stated by the Chancellor this summer, and has been noted in this report, I was not named in any of these allegations," Davis said. "I cooperated fully with the proper entities throughout this entire investigation. I felt that my staff and I implemented many practices into the program to try to prevent these types of issues.
"I am truly saddened this matter has affected so many innocent people. I wish UNC the very best."
Multiple violations found
The NCAA’s notice of allegations indicated that seven players received $27,097.38 in benefits “from individuals, some of whom trigger NCAA agent legislation,” which UNC agreed to be true.
The university became aware that players had taken impermissible benefits when a member of the NCAA Agent, Gambling and Amateurism staff notified them on June 21, 2010. In NCAA interviews, players acknowledged that they received travel, meals, cash, jewelry and “entertainment expenses” from multiple agents, financial advisers and former UNC players.
UNC discovered a tutor, Jennifer Wiley, had provided improper academic assistance to players through an anonymous report in April 2010. In multiple interviews, players, whose names were redacted from the report, said they were unaware that the assistance they got was impermissible.
The tutor was also found to have provided about $3,500 in “impermissible extra benefits to football student-athletes” including paying for plane tickets and parking fines.
"While the report is not totally correct as to Jennifer’s actions, we are truly glad this nightmare is over for her and that the NCAA understood her situation enough not to impose any penalties on her," said Wiley's attorney Joe Cheshire. "She has suffered a lot for having a big heart and we look forward to her moving on with what will continue to be a productive and meaningful life.
In March 2011, during a review of former assistant coach John Blake’s phone records, UNC discovered recruiting violations when Blake made multiple calls to a recruit in a week when just one was permitted. The university self-imposed a one-week, no-call punishment at that time that prevented any coaching staff member to contact recruits for that period.
Blake further violated NCAA recruiting rules between May 2007 and October 2009. Blake was found to have deposited $31,000 in payments from Gary Wichard’s sports agency, Pro Tect Management.
UNC did not agree with one of the NCAA allegations that said they failed to properly monitor social media. UNC argued that their monitoring of social media was adequate and in line with the requirements of the NCAA. The university said that it makes all student-athletes attend a workshop that defines the university’s expectations of social media and email use.
The NCAA sided with UNC in their argument saying, “we declined to impose a blanket duty on institutions to monitor social networking sites” but added that the NCAA should be part of the effort if there is an issue that could be resolved. Cunningham said that much of the responsibility also belongs with the university.
"We have to be very vigilant in how we monitor our entire program," Cunningham said. "We will be doing the best we can do make sure the best systems are in place."
Thorp said that the university discussed at length appealing the NCAA's decision but were not going to do so. They said that on top of the poor success rate in appeals, they respected the NCAA decision and felt like their case was adequately presented and adequately received.
“There is still a Carolina Way and the way we did this investigation was the Carolina Way,” Baddour said. “We set out four guidelines when we started this investigation and the fourth guideline was that we would be better after this.”
Change in leadership
On Dec. 9, UNC announced the hiring of Larry Fedora as the new head football coach. Fedora led the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles to a 34-19 record in four seasons, including a 12-2 record and Conference-USA title in 2011.
The 49-year-old Fedora replaced interim head coach Everett Withers, who was promoted from defensive coordinator less than two weeks before the start of fall practice after the firing of Butch Davis.
“I was aware of the NCAA case at the time I was named head coach. Bubba Cunningham and Holden Thorp were forthright and honest with me throughout the hiring process as I made the decision to take the job," Fedora said following the release of the COI report. "My only regret is for the current players, especially the seniors, who will not have the opportunity to compete for an ACC championship and go through the experience of a bowl game in 2012."
Withers led the Tar Heels to a 7-6 record and an Independence Bowl appearance. After the 2011 season, he accepted a position to join the Ohio State coaching staff.
Baddour, who had served as the athletic director at UNC for 14 years and has been associated with the university for four decades, announced he would step down at a press conference the day after Davis’ dismissal. UNC turned to Tulsa University to name Bubba Cunningham the new AD late in the year.
While it was Baddour who represented UNC at the Committee on Infractions meeting, it was Cunningham who was tasked with the Fedora coaching hire.
"Carolina is well positioned to move forward and be an even better athletics program in all areas," Baddour said. "I have great faith that Bubba Cunningham and Larry Fedora and their staffs are committed to maintaining a football program and athletics program that we all can be proud of."
Fedora has cleaned house, bringing six of his own assistants from Hattiesburg, Miss. Only two assistant coaches on the current staff, Gunter Brewer and Randy Jordan, have previous experience with the university.
“Now, more than ever, we need the entire Carolina fan base to come together and support our current student-athletes as we embark on a new era of Tar Heel football," Fedora said. "We will face this adversity head on and work to be a better football program."
In May, UNC hired a full-time addition to its compliance staff. The new position oversees the financial aid aspects of compliance. Also, the compliance staffer in charge of eligibility and certification has been moved to the same building as the Academic Support Program for Student-Athletes.