Judge: UNC must release more on NCAA probe
Posted September 26, 2012
Raleigh, N.C. — Information the University of North Carolina gathered for the NCAA about football players who got money, jewelry and other benefits is public record and should be released, according to an order from Superior Court Judge Howard E. Manning.
Wednesday's ruling is the latest in a series of back-and-forth as WRAL News and other media outlets seek detail in the investigation that led to 14 Tar Heel players sitting out some or all of the 2010 college football season.
The university mounted parallel investigations into academic and athletic violations within the football program in July 2010. Since that time, the director of athletics, head football coach and a key assistant have been replaced, and UNC has asked former governor Jim Martin to lead an investigation into academic improprieties university-wide. Just last week, Chancellor Holden Thorp announced his plan to resign in June.
At the heart of Wednesday's ruling are the "Statements of Fact" that UNC sent to the NCAA about each player. Manning ruled that, while information about a player's academic performance would remain sealed, facts about impermissible benefits that led to a player's being ruled ineligible should be released.
Manning wrote, "UNC is to produce in its original form each Statement of Facts related to any football player involved in the NCAA investigation at issue that is based on allegations of impermissible benefits (non-academic issues) received by the football player and which resulted in a decision by the NCAA to declare the student athlete ineligible to play intercollegiate football at UNC as a result."
The media coalition had sued for access to all documents related to UNC's investigation into possible misconduct by football players, coaches, academic tutors, sports agents and/or boosters. In resisting release of those documents, UNC broke the request into subsets, and Manning's ruling addressed those issues individually.
His key ruling was that UNC release Statements of Facts and any Reinstatement Request the university made to the NCAA on behalf of players, if those players' violations were not academic-related and resulted in their being ineligible to play. A Reinstatement Request includes personal information of student-athletes and is not anonymized. Any request made by UNC on the basis of impermissible benefits, which would detail the type of illegal benefits particular players received, must be made public.
WRAL and its partners also asked for unredacted copies of UNC's entire response to the NCAA allegations, which the university prepared in September 2011. It was this response that UNC used to propose the Tar Heels vacate all wins in 2008 and 2009, pay a $50,000 fine, lose nine scholarships over three years and serve a two-year probation period. In March, the NCAA responded with a punishment that included the loss of 15 scholarships over three years, a one-year postseason ban and three years on probation.
"The issues surrounding this behemoth of a document present the Court with a Gordian knot," Manning wrote. "The Court will deal with this as Alexander did with the Gordian knot itself – slice it."
UNC will be allowed to redact information related to academic or personnel issues, but must release anything related to "student-athlete impermissible benefits violations resulting in
sanctions and ineligibility."
Manning allowed UNC to keep under wraps certain communication between the university and legal representatives, including bills and recordings. Furthermore, Manning ruled that former coach Butch Davis has released all records the court required of him.
The records must be released within 30 days. UNC has the right to appeal the ruling.