Last year, two numbers loomed large in the NCAA's ongoing, multipronged investigation of improper benefits, academic fraud and agent connections at North Carolina: 14, the number of Carolina players who missed at least one game under scrutiny for possible violations, and 7, the number of Tar Heels who missed the entire season — three of whom went on to become first or second-round picks in April's NFL Draft.
Today, there are two more numbers in connection to the probe: 395, the number of parking citations racked up by a group of up to eleven UNC players from March 2007 to August 2010, and $13,185, the amount those players owed — or possibly still owe — as a result:
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP)—North Carolina has released documents showing a group of Tar Heel football players accumulated more than $13,000 in parking citations over a 3 1/2-year period.
The school released the documents Thursday, a day after the state Court of Appeals denied the school's request to delay the release of those records pending an appeal. A Wake County Superior Court judge had ruled in April that the school withheld documents it should have provided to requesting media outlets covering the NCAA investigation into the football program.
The university said in a statement that not all of the 11 players requested by the media had received tickets. The university says student-athletes "do not receive special treatment" and "are expected" to pay parking fines like any student, though it didn't say whether fines were paid.
One of the papers that went after the records, the News & Observer, said it requested information last year on Tar Heels Charles Brown, Kendric Burney, Bruce Carter, Ryan Houston, Dwight Jones, Donte Paige-Moss, Robert Quinn, Kevin Reddick, Greg Little, Johnny White and Deunta Williams. Even discounting that not everyone in that group was fined, $13,185 among eleven players amounts to just shy of $1,200 per player, or a little less than $400 per player over the three-and-a-half-year period in question. Cliff Harris probably thinks that's chump change (and I'm certainly not daring anyone to go snooping around my old college parking records, either), but that is a large sum in fines, especially for allegedly broke college kids. Hey, maybe that's why Burney, Little, Quinn and Williams — all cited by the NCAA for accepting well over $1,000 apiece in improper benefits from an agent — needed the money in the first place.
As deep as the parking-related scandal could conceivably take us down the wormhole, the real damage from today's document dump where Carolina's ongoing dance with the NCAA is concerned is from the other half, which includes hundreds of pages of phone records from head coach Butch Davis, athletic Dick Baddour and (most importantly) ex-defensive line coach John Blake. Before he was forced out last September, Blake was reportedly at the center of the NCAA's investigation for his longstanding relationship with NFL agent Gary Wichard, who himself was stripped of his license by the NFL Players Association last December before succumbing to cancer earlier this year. Star defensive tackle Marvin Austin's suspension stemmed at least in part from (among many other things) a trip he took to California to work out in Wichard's gym in August 2009, a trip allegedly paid for by one of Austin's old UNC teammates, fellow defensive tackle Kentwan Balmer, a Wichard client. Blake may have also been ratted out to the NCAA by defensive end Marcell Dareus, a friend of Austin's who allegedly got a pending four-game suspension to start last season knocked down to two games by telling investigators Blake had tried to steer him to Wichard in a phone call.
It's no wonder that Butch Davis admitted last October that he regretted ever hiring Blake, a longtime colleague who once played for Davis at Sand Springs High in Oklahoma and later won a Super Bowl with Davis when both were assistants with the Dallas Cowboys in the early nineties. And he may soon regret it more, if anything in the stacks of papers currently being rifled through by reporters turns up a stronger connection between Blake and Wichard and/or implicates that other Carolina coaches knew (or should have known) about players' relationship with agents. If UNC is eventually charged with employing an assistant coach who effectively acted as a runner for an NFL agent, a bunch of traffic tickets will look like, well, a bunch of traffic tickets.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.
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