February 27, 2011
The reverberations began the week before North Carolina faced LSU in their season opener - 12 players were held out of the Tar Heels' roster after multiple violations were brought to light. It was a devastating blow to the program, as 12 players were held out for that opening game, with suspension lengths to come.
The six ineligible student-athletes include: defensive tackle Marvin Austin, cornerback Charles Brown(notes), cornerback Kendric Burney, wide receiver Greg Little, defensive end Michael McAdoo and defensive end Robert Quinn.
Six other student-athletes who will be withheld from Saturday's game include: tailback Shaun Draughn, defensive end Linwan Euwell, safety Brian Gupton, tailback Ryan Houston, safety Da'Norris Searcy and safety Jonathan Smith.
The number of games that those 12 student-athletes may miss has not been determined at this time. The investigation continues to include both agent-related and academic issues.
In the end, Austin and Quinn lost their 2010 seasons as a result of various infractions. Quinn was suspended for receiving $5,600 in benefits from an agent, and Austin lost his season for receiving gifts as well, including "pretty much two trips to California and two trips to Miami," as Quinn put it. There were also allegations of academic improprieties relating to a tutor who had previously worked for UNC head coach Butch Davis.
It was a disaster for the team and the players. On Saturday, both Austin and Quinn had the opportunity to address the issues when they went in front of the media at the scouting combine.
"It was a tough situation," Austin said of the time away from his team. "A lot of guys missed a lot of time playing football so it hurt a lot, having to sit the whole season out. It was just something that made you sit back and think about the opportunity and makes you realize that you have to take every dayas if it may be your last, because it possibly could be. Going through that has made me and my teammates grow and I think we'll be better professionals because of it.
Austin and Quinn are still projected as high-pick prospects despite the controversies. Austin might be a second-rounder if everything checks out, while most experts see Quinn as a potential top-ten pick. Both players still have one obstacle in the way of their ultimate draft position goals - Austin needs to prove that he's developed into a complete player when he really needed that 2010 season to round out his skill set. Quinn has to questions about his talent, a benign brain tumor that was diagnosed when Quinn was in high school and has not been removed - will be a point of focus for teams looking at him as their next great defender.
"I won't say it was scary; it was more heartbreaking when they told me I wouldn't be able to play sports anymore," Quinn said of the diagnosis. "At one point, they told me I should have been brain-dead. It was kind of that Booby Miles moment when I looked at my mom when they told me I wouldn't play sports again, and I became that big old baby and busted out in tears. It was just heartbreaking. But it didn't slow me down. And three, four years later, I'm still going."
Both players appeared remorseful about their transgressions in a Saturday media session that seemed to feature such confession/apology/denial sessions all too often. Between Cam Newton, Ryan Mallett, and the UNC players, it was quite the little soap opera.
"Watching the whole season, especially when UNC played LSU and I went down to support them, seeing our guys run on to the field, in the middle of the game I was about in tears in the stands," Quinn said. "I made a selfish mistake and couldn't be out there. That's never my mindset. God gave me a talent, and (in a) second he can take it away from me. I truly apologized for it."
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