September 19, 2011
Hey, North Carolina fans! Remember those 16 wins your team earned during back-to-back 8-5 seasons in 2008 and 2009, including victories over Miami, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech? You are hereby instructed to forget them: Today, the university officially vacated all 16 wins in its formal response to the epic list of allegations handed down by the NCAA in June. You can read the entire 111-page response here.
To refresh your memory, officially, the Tar Heels are accused of:
a) Playing seven players in 2009 who allegedly accepted more than $27,000 in improper benefits from three professional agents, five former UNC players, a jeweler, "various financial advisers" and a guy named Willie (last name unknown);
b) Employing an assistant coach who allegedly partnered with an agent to steer NFL-worthy players to the agency;
c) Employing an academic tutor who allegedly conducted research and wrote portions of papers and works-cited pages for players in 2008 and 2009;
d) Employing an academic tutor who allegedly provided well over $3,000 in improper benefits via free tutoring, airfare and cash to pay off parking fines; and
e) Obstructing the NCAA's investigation, thanks to an unnamed player (almost certainly former defensive lineman Marvin Austin) who allegedly "provid[ed] false and misleading information" about who paid for airfare and lodging on multiple trips he took in 2009 and 2010.
For all of that, Carolina was forced to suspend 14 players for at least one game last season, seven of whom — including Austin and two other players who were subsequently drafted in the first two rounds of April's NFL Draft — never played a down. It also wasted no time distancing itself from John Blake, the rogue assistant coach who was briefly vanquished to the innermost circle of NCAA infamy before a new one had to be created to accommodate Ponzi-scheming Miami booster Nevin Shapiro. Then, just for that extra clean feeling, it canned head coach Butch Davis just before the start of preseason practices in July — a full year after the allegations first surfaced, and more than a month after the formal charges came down with Davis' name conspicuously absent from the report.
Now, in addition to the vacated wins, North Carolina is continuing to plead for mercy from the NCAA by "voluntarily" imposing scholarship reductions (three less per year for the next three years), two years' probation and a $50,000 fine.
It is not, however, instituting the harshest penalty on the board, a bowl ban, which will conceivably be on the table when UNC goes to Indianapolis on Oct. 28 for its all-important hearing in front of the NCAA Committee on Infractions. A final verdict will come down a few weeks after that, and if the Tar Heels are lucky, the committee will decide its seen enough blood spilled in atonement.