If you had to pick any player in college football who should grasp the potential scope and consequences of NCAA violations re: agents and/or improper benefits, it's Quinton Coples. Last year, Coples was one of the few North Carolina defenders who emerged unscathed from the (still ongoing) probe that, over the course of the season, cost a dozen UNC starters at least one game, cost three soon-to-be draft picks the entire 2010 campaign and likely cost Coples' position coach his career — all as a result of defensive tackle Marvin Austin's early morning tweets from da club last May. The obvious lesson for an up-and-coming star like Coples: Keep a low profile, keep away from anyone connected to the NFL and for heaven's sake, keep it off the Internet.
So where was Coples on May 5? According to ESPN, in da club, with recently drafted suspendees Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn, being photographed for the world to see — including, of course, the NCAA, which gets to go to Chapel Hill for another round of whack-a-mole:
An NCAA investigator interviewed North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples this week about his attendance at a Washington, D.C., post-draft party earlier this month at which former Tar Heels Marvin Austin and Robert Quinn were present, sources said.
Coples, 6-foot-6, 245 pounds, had 15½ tackles for loss as a junior, including 10 sacks, and is rated as the No. 2 draft-eligible player in the nation by ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper.
Photographs of Coples with Austin and Quinn that appeared on Facebook and the web site EliteDCMag.com prompted the inquiry. The party is labeled as taking place at "Ultrabar" nightclub. Also seen in photos with players is at least one alleged runner the NCAA has investigated.
Here's the photo gallery from Ultrabar, the free version of which includes a picture of Austin backed by females, not fellow defensive linemen. (The photo allegedly featuring Coples seems to be for registered users only.) Coples' presence there isn't a violation in and of itself, but it would be if anyone else paid for his travel, admission, hotel, food, drinks or anything else. It doesn't help that the photos were snapped just a few weeks after the NCAA distributed a letter through the NFL explicitly warning underclassmen to steer clear of draft parties, emphasizing in bold letters, "Please do not jeopardize the eligibility of your friends or former teammates." Well, it was nice try.
Coples led the team in sacks (10) and tackles for loss (15.5) last year as a junior, was a first-team All-ACC pick and is unanimously pegged as another high first-round pick from the UNC front four next April. As Quinn and Austin proved, that fate won't change. But first, the Heels now have to wonder if he's going to be on the field come September.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.