NCAA investigation focusing on UNC trip

July 20, 2010 4:32:24 AM PDT
THE NCAA is investigating UNC Chapel Hill football players after a trip to South Beach and their possible dealings with sports agents.Some local reports say star defensive lineman Marcus Austin is going to be suspended by the NCAA.

But sources very close to the UNC football program tell ABC11 Eyewitness News that Austin was on campus Monday, and is still on the team and eligible to play.

The NCAA does not have the power to hand out suspensions; it's the school's decision.

In the meantime, Austin, who was projected as a first round NFL draft pick, continues to scrub his internet profiles. Over the weekend, he took down Facebook photos of himself posing with a Rolls Royce in Miami Beach.

Westlye Saunders, a Durham Riverside HS grad who's currently a senior tight end for the South Carolina Gamecocks, and Austin took a trip to Miami this past spring.

Sources say among questions from the NCAA is did a professional sports agent pay for travel expenses and hotel rooms for the pair?

"Chances of the NCAA asking themselves how did this guy get there, how did he end up on that trip, are pretty high" said Rand Gentlin, an consultant who helps colleges with rule compliance.

The Tar Heels have a number of players judged to be potential pros and if any took money or gifts from agents, the NCAA would likely declare them ineligible and games, in which they played after gifts were received, could be forfeited.

"If they play a player who is deemed retroactively ineligible, would they have to forfeit that game, that's a decision North Carolina will have to make," said Joe Schad with ESPN."

So many standout stars on one Carolina football team is not common at Chapel Hill.

Gentlin says schools like UNC have so much reputation and revenue riding on their athletic department that they should have more people monitoring their players much more closely --even their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

"North Carolina has five guys who are first round potential this year," Gentlin said. "Those guys, in and of themselves, should have a single person dedicated to playing by the rules."

Carolina, like other schools, has a small staff dedicated to keeping players and coaches working within the rules of amateur athletics and they do not police a players every move.

"It would be a full-time, secret service, under cover investigative job," Schad said.

Meanwhile, UNC has not determined what type of punishment Austin might face, because the investigation is ongoing.

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