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NCAA hits UNC football with probation, scholarship losses, post-season ban -- UM Canes still await day of reckoning

After a 16-month investigation, the NCAA announced its sanctions regarding the UNC football program. The Tar Heels had imposed their own sanctions, including vacating all 16 of its 2008 and 2009 football victories, a nine-scholarship reduction over the next three academic years, a $50,000 fine and two years probation.

But note that UNC did NOT self-impose a bowl ban, as the Miami Hurricanes did this past November (the only self-imposed step the Canes have taken thus far in the Nevin Shapiro case), and the NCAA obviously didn't agree with UNC's decision on that.

The NCAA Comittee on Infractions hit UNC with

* Three years' probation from March 12, 2012 through March 11, 2015

* A reduction of 15 scholarships over those three years

* Postseason ban for the 2012 football season.

* A three-year show-cause penalty for former assistant coach John Blake, who, "while employed by the university,'' according to the NCAA statement, "was compensated by a sports agent [now deceased Gary Wichard] for the access he provided to student-athletes and failed to disclose the income to the university." Blake, who was forced to resign from UNC after the scandal broke, will not be allowed to do any recruiting-related duties. Thus, he is expected to remain out of coaching for at least the three years.   

The NCAA said Blake "was also cited for a failure to cooperate and [for] unethical conduct. According to the Division I Committee on Infractions, not only did he refuse to provide information relevant to the investigation, but he also furnished false and misleading information. At the hearing, in a reverasal of his previous refusal to provide information, the former assistant coach expressed a willingness to provide the pertinent records. However, he did not provide the documents for more than three months following the hearing, resulting in a significant delay in bringing this case to conclusion.''

 Some more interesting info on the case from the NCAA findings:

 * "The academic fraud violations stemmed from the former tutor [Jennifer Wiley] constructing significant parts of writing assignments for three football student-athletes... and also provided $4,000 in impermissible benefits, including airfare and paying for outstanding parking tickets, to 11 football student-athletes after she graduated and was no longer a university employee. The tutor also refused to cooperate with the investigation.''

* "This case also included the provision of thousands of dollars in impermissible benefits to multiple student-athletes.'' The NCAA found that seven football players "accepted more than $27,500 in benefits from various individuals, some of whom triggered NCAA agent rules. These impermissible benefits included cash, flights, meals, lodging, athletic training, admission to clubs and jewelry, among others. Whle the value of the benefits the student-athletes varied, one student-athlete received more than $13,500 cash and gifts.''

UNC, by the way, will not appeal the penalties.

UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp called those penalties "more severe than we expected.''

Former UNC football coach (and former UM football coach) Butch Davis, who now is a defensive assistant in the NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was not cited for any violations in the NCAA report. Davis was fired by Thorp just before fall training camp began last season.

Here's the statement by Davis, that was released Monday, and ran in the Charlotte Observer:

"As was stated by the Chancellor this summer, and has been noted in this report, I was not named in any of these allegations. 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. Indeed, the NCAA report stated that 'there was no indication during the joint investigation that student-athletes are not well-educated on regulations concerning agents, extra benefits, and preferential treatment.'

"I am truly saddened this matter has affected so many innocent people. i wish UNC the very best.''

 UNC finished 7-6 last season (losing to Miami 30-24).

Telling quote by NCAA: "This case should serve as a cautionary tale to all institutions to vigilantly monitor the activities of those student-athletes who possess the potential to be top professional prospects. It should also serve to warn student-athletes that if they choose to accept benefits from agents or their associates, they risk losing their eligibility for collegiate competition.''

MY THOUGHTS

I think this is a pretty severe penalty, though, yes it is only the 15 scholarships over the three years (five per year) -- including UNC's nine scholarship losses already self-imposed (Aside: thanks Ken, and have a great day!).

In the mid 1990s, in UM's big NCAA pell-grant case, UM self-imposed seven scholarships and lost an additional 24 through NCAA sanctions, for a total of 31 over three seasons.

Also, please note should UNC qualify for winning the Coastal Division of the Atlantic Coast Conference this coming season, it is banned from playing for the ACC title.

Is UM next? I heard a couple weeks ago that UM's case was still not close to being decided. But with this one over, it could begin to move faster.

UM, understandably, declined to comment on the NCAA's ruling of the UNC case.

UM should hear its fate, for sure, before the end of the 2012 football season -- and possibly before the season begins. Can you imagine if UM were to strike gold and win the Coastal and qualify for its first ACC title, only to be banned from playing in the championship? 

UM's self-imposed bowl ban was definitely a good idea. If the NCAA can prove more of Shapiro's allegations, and obviously some have been proven because of previous football and basketball suspensions, no doubt UM will be losing scholarships. (Will find out more about the status of currently suspended hoopster Durand Scott later; the timing of the last two UM hoopsters' suspensions, just hours before playing FSU, can't help but conjur head-shaking and all kinds of curious thoughts)

I just think it's strange that former UM coaches implicated by Shapiro in this case are seemingly flying high with their respective football and basketball teams. Let's see what happens when this all shakes out.

SUSAN MILLER DEGNAN

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