NCAA announces UNC sanctions

March 12, 2012 7:37:28 PM PDT
The NCAA announced broad sanctions against UNC Chapel Hill's football program Monday - including the loss of a bowl appearance and scholarships.

The announcement from the NCAA Committee on Infractions capped a two-year probe of alleged academic misconduct, alleged unethical conduct by an assistant coach, and allegations that players got perks from professional sports agents.

In a news release, the NCAA said the school is "responsible for multiple violations, including academic fraud, impermissible agent benefits, ineligible participation, and a failure to monitor its football program."

Investigators concluded six football student-athletes competed while ineligible over the course of three seasons as a result of the violations, and multiple student-athletes received impermissible benefits totaling more than $31,000.

Read the Public Infractions Report here.

"This case should serve as a cautionary tale to all institutions to vigilantly monitor the activities of those student-athletes who possess the potential to be top professional prospects," the committee stated in its report. "It should also serve to warn student-athletes that if they choose to accept benefits from agents or their associates, they risk losing their eligibility for collegiate competition."

Penalties imposed by the NCAA include a one-year postseason ban, reduction of 15 football scholarships, vacation of records, and three years probation.

Chancellor Holden Thorp said the sanctions were harsher than the school expected.

"We considered an appeal. But given the timing and the record that other schools have had with appeals, as well as the fact that penalties are suspended during an appeal, we’ve decided it’s best to accept our sanctions and move forward," he said.

UNC's problems began in 2010 when the school announced it was looking into irregularities in the football program including alleged improper benefits and academic misconduct. While both have denied any knowledge of what was going on, the probe ultimately led to the firing of head coach Butch Davis as well as the early exit of Baddour as athletic director.

In all, 14 players missed at least one game because of the probe with seven being ruled out for the entire year. An eighth was cleared to return at midseason but decided to redshirt.

The NCAA alleges former UNC assistant coach John Blake failed to report more than $30,000 in outside income he got from late NFL agent Gary Wichard. Blake’s attorney has said the transactions were loans during tough financial times, but the NCAA said Blake worked to steer players to Wichard once they reached the NFL.

The NCAA also said Blake provided "false and misleading information" to NCAA investigators and school officials regarding his relationship with Wichard.

The report also named former tutor Jennifer Wiley - who it said constructed significant parts of writing assignments for three football student-athletes. It said she also gave more than $4,000 in impermissible benefits, including airfare and paying for outstanding parking tickets, to 11 football student-athletes after she graduated and was no longer a university employee. The report said she also refused to cooperate with the investigation.

Investigators also said seven players got thousands of dollars in impermissible benefits, including: cash, flights, meals, lodging, athletic training, admission to clubs and jewelry, among others. One student-athlete received more than $13,500 cash and gifts.

UNC had already acknowledged violations and self imposed several punishments, including:

  • Vacating the 2008 and 2009 seasons
  • Losing three scholarships for the 2012-2013, 2013-2014, and 2014-2015 seasons (9 total)
  • Two years of probation
  • $50,000 fine

The scandal has been a major blow to the school, which previously only had one major NCAA violation - in January 1961 - to its history.

UNC has since hired Tulsa's Bubba Cunningham as Baddour's successor and named Larry Fedora its new head football coach.

Fedora said Monday that the program will weather the adversity.

"I was aware of the NCAA case at the time I was named head coach. Bubba Cunningham and Holden Thorp were forthright and honest with me throughout the hiring process as I made the decision to take the job," he said.

Davis issued a statement after the sanctions were announced. It read in part, "The NCAA's investigation and report is comprehensive and I am certain that all parties were anxious to be made aware of their conclusions. It has been a difficult process for everyone and there has been a great deal of time and effort, by many people, devoted to this matter."

Davis went on to say, "I cooperated fully with the proper entities throughout this entire investigation. I felt that my staff and I implemented many practices into the program to try to prevent these types of issues."

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