CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina has sent letters of “permanent disassociation” to former Tar Heels football players Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn for NCAA violations that led to criminal charges against five people for violating the state’s sports agent law.
The letters dated Nov. 15 prohibit the players from contacting current UNC athletes, bar them from the Kenan Football Center or other campus athletic facilities, and prohibit them from providing recruiting or financial assistance for athletics.
The players missed the 2010 season for accepting improper benefits, including cash and travel accommodations. That led to NCAA sanctions against the program and recent charges against five people for violating the state’s Uniform Athlete Agents Act.
The school released the letters Tuesday in response to public-records requests from media outlets.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-formally-cuts-ties-with-former-athletes/
RALEIGH – The man behind the UNC Football “money scandal” that led to the firing of head coach Butch Davis and the resignation of athletic director Dick Baddour was announced Monday morning.
WRAL reports the North Carolina Secretary of State found that Terry Shawn Watson of the Watson Sports Agency in Marietta, Georgia sent money to former UNC football player Marvin Austin and other players nationwide. At the time, Watson was not a legal agent in North Carolina as his attempt to register was rejected due to a bounced check.
Austin told investigators he received the money via FedEx which was later confirmed through shipping records. Watson associate Patrick Jones told them that was a normal form of fund dispersal.
Davis talked about his current job with the Tampa Bay Bucs, turning down a coaching opportunity with the team to be a consultant. That, of course, allowed him to keep his entire $2.7 million severance from UNC, thanks to a loosely written contract that said he could not take another “coaching job” and be paid off.
He counted himself among the “innocent victims” of the UNC scandal, even though Davis padded his already enormous bank account with the 10 million bucks he made at Carolina since 2007. He said several times that he will coach again, hopefully leading a college or NFL program. His alma mater Arkansas will be hiring after this season, and Razorbacks’ Athletic Director Jeff Long will have to decide whether Davis passes the smell test to take over that scandal-ridden program.
Gravley followed the popular tack that the timing of Davis’ firing was unfair. To whom? The coach walked with his fat severance, the football program he left behind faced a season with an interim coach no matter when he was fired, and the school quickly hired what looks to be an outstanding athletic director and exciting new head coach. So when Davis was fired remains a moot point.
Davis opined that the escalating NCAA and academic investigations got him and “if they eliminated me from the scenario” it was a sign that UNC was cleaning up the program. Precisely because, whether directly complicit or not, a six-figured CEO has to take the fall when the company’s reputation is at stake. Part of the job, not to mention a major NCAA violation by anyone on his staff was grounds for firing in his contract.
Asked how a head coach could not know all the things going wrong with his program, Davis said “there was so much to know” and diverted to how he cleaned up Miami football and had to dismiss 18 players from the team his first year at UNC, saying something about “hundred dollar bills laying on their beds and putting it on Facebook.” Fact checkers, let’s get on that one.
He called his coaching staff “as proactive as any in the country” in monitoring their players. That was the perfect entrée for Gravley to ask Davis why they didn’t know what the half-dozen potential first-round draft choices were doing when Marvin Austin’s tweet from a South Beach bistro set off a chain reaction that brought down a program. A sign-up system ensued, but the damage had been done.
Davis continued to distance himself from John Blake, his long-time friend whom he taught in high school and coached with at Dallas in the NFL. He said Blake passed all vetting from UNC Human Resources to the NCAA and, due to two 12-year periods when they did not work together, claimed the only knowledge he had of Blake was as a great defensive line coach and recruiter. Gravley mentioned that Blake “was a little shady” but did not pursue his widespread recruiting reputation that gave him the industry nickname of “Black Santa”. Virtually every athletic director and football coach in the country knew about that side of Blake except, apparently, the ones at Carolina.
All in all, it was a good recruiting tape to show Arkansas and anyone else looking for a new coach. “I’m not done,” Davis said, “absolutely, I’ll be coaching again somewhere.”
The 208-page report released by UNC this week pertaining to the football scandal revealed few new facts and fewer names – thanks to heavy redaction in almost every document. What it did underscore was the gross lack of oversight in the entire mess.
From the first $67,000 paid to a Kansas law firm that was hired and still could not prevent loose lips that sunk some scholarships, to the naïve “c’mon in” attitude of the athletic department toward the NCAA, it has mushroomed into an academic scandal whose stench will last long after the three-year probationary period ends. And more legal bills will be coming for sure.
The media is – and continues to be – dogged in seeking the release of every public document pertaining to the scandal. That UNC won’t give up any of the names of players, tutors and others involved, citing FERPA privacy laws, is like dangling raw meat in front of a Tiger. That’s how hungry the so-called traditional media is to prove that it still has a place in the Internet-social media society of today.
Most of the impermissible benefits remain pretty petty. One case involves a couple of players who slept on a former teammate’s couch after a heavy night of partying instead of making it back to the hotel room they had paid for with their own money. Hotel, no violation; buddy’s couch, impermissible bennie. Silly rule.
The worst of it involves Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn, and Greg Little, three players who did take what they weren’t supposed to in travel and jewelry. Each committed specific crimes in the eyes of the NCAA as the scandal blew up.
Austin, of course, awoke the college watchdogs by tweeting from that South Beach bistro. Quinn gave up his cell phone that had calls and texts linking him to a Miami jeweler. And Little, who has never been able to keep his trap shut, first mentioned “Miss Wiley” to NCAA investigators, which allowed them to look at Jennifer Wiley’s university email account that contained hundreds to and from football players. That turned an NCAA investigation into an academic fraud case.
Granted, Carolina has had very little experience dealing with the NCAA on this side of the line; it has been 50 years since our last probation. But, until Bubba Cunningham arrived, the athletic department was pathetically myopic in not seeking advice from outside sources and convincing each other the Carolina Way will prevail and the worst is over. The Carolina Way is now a punch line.
One obvious transparency was bringing in the Kansas law firm that still could not prepare the players well enough for their inquisitions. Another is the university telling players NOT to get their own individual attorneys because it will “make you look guilty.” That lit a fire under Devon Ramsay’s mother, who lawyered up on her own and got her son off.
And now it’s clear that Carolina has slipped across the line that separates every major college athletic department from those with a rap sheet. Since the leather helmet days, football players have been taking $5-50 handshakes, free meals here and there, and steered toward courses taught by the “Easy B Nyang’oros.”
The depth of this probe has made it look like a rogue department and a Chair and associate who turned lecture classes into independent study courses (without teachers) in which tutors helped players write papers that would determine their grades. That part of the scandal is still under deep scrutiny and looks like it will have the most damning effect on the rep of a great university.
When 18 football players wind up in a course that was put onto the schedule at virtually the last minute, there had to be a conduit between athletics and academics to help those players needing to stay eligible. There is simply no other explanation, whether it was John Blake, the academic support staff or Butch Davis himself coming up with the solution. Eventually, someone else may pay for that.
Of course, Davis continues to claim he did nothing wrong and knew of nothing wrong. Truth is, he did know a lot about what was going on at the academic support center, did not like some of it and butted heads trying to change it.
Whatever the well-known football fibber knew or didn’t know, the buck had to stop with the man making $3 million as CEO of the program. All this deny, deny, deny, and I didn’t know on You Tube is enough to make any caring Tar Heel sick to his stomach. Davis did lots of good with UNC football but apparently nothing bad.
And yet, we’re still paying his full severance, even though it’s clear he and his agent are pulling a fast one with the wording of Davis’ new job description in Tampa Bay. PLUS, we invited his kid to join the football team as a walk-on, keeping his dad as part of the UNC Football Family. Not exactly what I’d call a fresh start and moving on.
As my friend BobLee says, “There has to be a better answer than our mess isn’t as bad as Penn State’s.”
If you want to read the acerbic version of the story from BobLee himself, click here. Laughing and crying out loud are both permitted.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/same-old-same-old/
Although the deposed Julius Nyang’oro had been teaching at UNC for 20 years, during which time taking Swahili had become somewhat of an inside joke among athletes, the period about to go under the microscope of the SBI is the summer of 2007 through the end of 2009.
Coincidence, or precisely between when Butch Davis began coaching at Carolina and his program fell under investigation by the NCAA? The very first piece of this so-call academia was Marvin Austin’s “B” grade in an upper level course he took the summer before enrolling as a freshman at UNC in 2007.
Nyang’oro was supposed to have taught that course, but it is still unclear whether it was one of the 45 that the former department chair arbitrarily turned from accelerated summer lectures into, “There will be no classes, just come back at the end of the semester with a paper about a prominent black leader.”
Or some such non-sense.
Austin then enrolled as a full-time student. One of his first-semester courses in the fall of 2007 had the adjective “remedial” attached to it. From advanced to remedial in one easy lesson, which is that a number of unqualified “student-athletes” Davis signed should have been at lesser schools or junior college somewhere.
Austin, of course, was the centerpiece of Davis’ first freshman class, for which fired assistant head coach and recruiting coordinator John Blake took and got most of the credit. Austin had been highly sought around the country after a star high school career in Washington, D.C., but not by Carolina. Yet the smooth-talking Blake waltzed up there and bagged the big guy.
That turn of phrase reminds me how one former UNC assistant coach under Dick Crum cracked over the summer, “Hell, everyone knew Blake was the bag man.”
Anyway, enough of that.
After Blake signed up Austin, you can envision a parallel conversation going on between the Davis camp and Nyang’oro that went something like: “We’ve got this stud defensive tackle coming in and he’s going to play for us right away. We need to kick start his GPA so there is no chance of him being ineligible after his first season.”
Sounds like a summer school course from “Easy B” Nyang’oro was the answer.
With so many classes that were supposed to be lectures turning into “come back with a paper” capers, it’s easy to see how tutors like Jennifer Wiley were pressed into overtime duty. Of course, the most publicized of which was Michael McAdoo’s plagiarized piece that got him thrown off the field by the NCAA and kicked out of Superior Court after he filed suit to regain his eligibility.
The time frame of all this is so curious one has to wonder why the preceding football regimes at UNC only had passing knowledge of Nyang’oro and his department in the first place. One former UNC coach remembers watching a game on TV and seeing a player’s bio come up on the screen with the major “African Afro-American Studies.”
He said, “What the hell is that?”
Carolina grad and Orange/Chatham County District Attorney Jim Woodall has called on the SBI to investigate this era of Davis, who by the way UNC still owes $1.8 million in severance pay even though the Butcher has taken another job with the Tampa Bay Bucs. But not to coach, only advise.
Sure, let’s pay Davis the 1.8 mil and then ask him to cover Carolina’s legal fees in this last episode of the scandal that clearly crossed the line.
All former football coaches and players know that summer has been the time for getting/keeping kids eligible, all the way back to when I was in school. In my day, it was Portuguese and education classes taught by Dr. Unks and Dr. Lovingood to beef up your GPA. Now, it’s Swahili and a bunch of other “Easy B” courses where athletes seem to migrate.
But as Roy Williams said snippily a week or so ago, “They went to class and did the work that was assigned to them.” Maybe all the basketball players did, but apparently not all the athletes enrolled in Nyang’oro U.
African Afro-American Studies is, or was, a legitimate major at UNC in the College of Arts & Sciences. Chancellor Holden Thorp was the Dean of Arts & Sciences for the 2007-08 school year, when the big trouble was just brewing. The notion that Thorp’s job could be in jeopardy is ludicrous, since it was obviously a football-engineered scam that turned the department into a sham over the last four years.
The most recent annual salary for Nyang’oro, who is being forced into retirement as of July 1, was $159,000 plus a $12,000 stipend for chairing the department. He also made $12,000 a summer for courses he was supposed to be teaching. The News & Observer reported last week that Nyang’oro was paid $120,000 for summer school work during his tenure. Some of which was never actually done. Some of which was taught outside the course description. Some of which resulted in grades that were changed and faculty members’ names forged on the forms.
All to be untangled by Woodall and the SBI, which can find criminal fraud if any of the cheating was conducted on state property or equipment.
Let’s hope it happens quickly and the right people are held accountable.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/nyango-who-u/
One of the reasons you never want an NCAA investigation – and certainly not probation – hitting your campus is because of the residue it leaves.
UNC is trying to move forward from the football mess that put it in the national headlines for the wrong reasons. We have a new athletic director and new football coach, so hopefully the oversight problems that existed will be corrected.
But the residue makes you part of a larger conversation and debate, which at this point in time is raging due to the numerous schools that have been in trouble before and since Carolina. The issue of paying athletes is back on the table. The entire existence of the NCAA is being questioned. Voices from near and far, from on the field and off the court, from people to whom athletics is no more than a passing thought, are being heard.
Joe Nocera, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times, has decided to take on college athletics and all what’s wrong with it. So sweeping generalizations are being made in undocumented writings, some of which directly target UNC because Nocera has spent time in Chapel Hill interviewing athletes and lunching with faculty members.
How does Carolina respond to the more outrageous claims being made by Nocera via his sources? Does the university say “this too shall pass” and feel good about the changes made to correct what IS wrong? Or do some of the more inflammatory charges need to be answered?
Nocera says all freshman athletes are forced to take Swahili as their language requirement, flippantly dismissing it as remedial English when it is apparently difficult to learn. Nocera theorizes that it’s “because the athletic department tutors are strong in Swahili.”
Former defensive back Deunta Williams, who missed four games during the suspension-laden 2010 season, serves as a source for the so-called “Swahili scandal”.
Here are the facts, according to John Blanchard, senior associate athletics director for student-athletes services, and given to Nocera, whether or not he ever makes a correction in print.
Of the 21 freshman football players who are currently on scholarship, Blanchard said none of them are taking Swahili. Zero. Nada.
But what about in the Butch Davis era, dating back to when Williams was a freshman? Again, According to Blanchard:
Of the 25 freshman who entered school in 2006 . . .
· 12 took Portuguese
· 7 did take Swahili
· 1 took Spanish
· 5 chose not to take their language requirement as freshmen
UNC did not release the “Swahili stats” between 2006 and this academic year because there may have been a trend to support Nocera’s hyperbole. Sure, Swahili might have become more prevalent as Davis gained traction, leading to incidents like Marvin Austin taking a 400-level course in African Studies the summer before he enrolled as a freshman and the eventual loss of his chair of the African and Afro-American Studies department by Julius Nyang’oro.
Williams goes on to say, according to Nocera, “Athletes could only take the classes the athletic department wanted them to take. Coursework couldn’t interfere with practice, of course. It was always better that the classes not be too difficult — otherwise, there might be eligibility problems.”
Nocera further maintains that several faculty members told him that when an athlete enrolls in their class, “they get a letter from the athletic department asking them, in effect, to go easy on the player.”
Do all athletes have all of their courses dictated by the athletic department? Blanchard says that is not only inaccurate, it’s a bit ridiculous.
“All students, including athletes, have academic advisors on campus and seek their advice,” Blanchard said. “The academic advisors work with the students in selecting courses and the ultimate decision on which course to take is the student’s.”
And as for what the professors receive from the athletic department, it is called the “travel letter” and sent to every faculty member who has a varsity athlete in his or her class.
“It refers to student athletes who are in season and will be traveling with their respective teams,” Blanchard said. “It states they will be missing class and cites (UNC) faculty council policy that the athletes are responsible for their work but cannot be penalized for missing class while they are representing the university.”
The Schools Make The Rules
All this misses the point. Like most major universities, UNC employs dozens and dozens of faculty and staff members to try to make sure the more than 700 scholarship athletes make the NCAA-mandated progress toward graduation to stay eligible. Probably 95 percent of them do it the right way. The academic fraud that contributed to Carolina’s three-year probation came from a very few who did not want to do the work or simply weren’t capable without the wrong kind of help.
The bigger question that most people want answered is why are these football and basketball players are still called “student athletes” when they are responsible for the millions of dollars that fill the athletic department coffers every year? Is getting a free education for four or five years a fair trade? Should they not be paid something so the poorest of them can go out on a date and eat dinner away from the training table?
That is at the heart of the scorn aimed at the NCAA right now. But Nocera and others don’t get it. The NCAA administers events and investigates charges of rules violations, but those rules and penalties come from committees made up of employees from NCAA members. The schools make the rules!
The NCAA is an administrative organization responsible for revenue streams that flow to the conference and their member schools. Many athletic departments have become self-sustaining corporations of sort that still enjoy the same tax-exempt status as their universities.
Paying athletes would make them employees of the schools and thus eligible for workman’s compensation if “injured on the job.” The tax-exemptions would be lost by at least the athletic departments if not the entire college or university.
So it’s not the NCAA that could affect change. It is the schools that would have to quit the multi-million-dollar facilities arms race, stop paying coaches in non-revenue-producing sports high six- and seven-figure salaries, and create a ceiling for what the big-sport coaches make that is now eclipsing $5 million a year for some.
The money that is required to run the major-college athletic departments of today leads to the pressure to pay the coaches and build plush facilities, trying to win games by recruiting the best players and some who don’t belong in college. Yes, a little more integrity is needed.
But it won’t stop with one athletic director or university president committing professional suicide by standing up and leaving the room. They all have to do it together, and that’s not going to happen because there is just too much money. Being made and to lose.
The NCAA’s 38-page report on the Carolina football sanctions is detailed in its outline of violations by the school and the individuals involved (although no names are mentioned; just Student Athlete 1, Student Athlete 2, former assistant coach, former tutor, etc.). But it, as the entire investigation has over the last 22 months, leaves many questions unanswered. Here are a few:
1) Why has the implicated former tutor, exposed many months ago as 2009 UNC graduate and current Durham elementary school teacher Jennifer Wiley, refused to be interviewed by UNC and/or the NCAA or make any public comment of explanation or in her own defense?
Wiley is widely held responsible for the damning tag of “academic fraud” in the first seven pages of the NCAA report, and anyone in her place should be seething that she was thrown under the bus for every picayune and confusing allegation of student-athlete academic misconduct.
Wiley received a letter of disassociation from the university, yet she continues to be represented by noted Raleigh attorney and UNC graduate Joe Cheshire, who defended one of the wealthiest former Duke lacrosse players falsely charged with rape in 2006.
Cheshire did not return phone calls or emails this week after making a statement to WRAL’s website in which he called the NCAA report “not completely accurate” and categorized Wiley as having a “big heart that caused her so much pain” who now wants to get on with her life. So disgraced by her alma mater, why is Wiley refusing to tell her side of the story? Is there legal action coming from Wiley and her family?
Cheshire also represented fired football coach Butch Davis, who is further tied to Wiley because he and his wife hired her as a private tutor for their teenage son, Drew. Wiley’s only public statements have been of regret over her role in the scandal and support of Davis.
Attempts to reach Wiley at her home, school and via email have been unsuccessful. Her parents must be both heartbroken and furious, yet her father Stewart Wiley of Matthews, N.C., also refused to talk when contacted. He maintained his daughter has nothing more to say.
Cheshire told the News & Observer Friday that the $1,789 she gave a former UNC player (Greg Little) to pay off his unpaid parking tickets was a loan that was paid back right away, and that every other favor she did for football players was out of friendship to help them fulfill their dream of playing in the NFL someday.
2) Will John Blake continue to be silent after denying all charges against him (allegations that were not refuted by UNC in their official response to the NCAA) and receiving a three-year “show cause” penalty that will keep him from coaching college football for at least that long?
Blake has told several acquaintances that he was fired as a scapegoat in September of 2010 and a number of former UNC players, coaches and administrators knew of his relationship with deceased agent Gary Wichard, including Davis. Blake appeared before the NCAA Committee on Infractions at the same hearing where UNC responded to the nine allegations last October.
Blake has also retained counsel who said they are contemplating an appeal. He could also sue both the NCAA and UNC. If he has more damning evidence and UNC truly wants to put the scandal in the background, he could be in a position to get more money from his former employer. Blake was paid a pro-rated 2010 salary of $75,000 when fired.
Former Southern Cal assistant coach Todd McNair filed suit against the NCAA in 2011, claiming libel, slander and misconduct in implicating him in the investigation of USC Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush, which landed the Trojans on probation, including a two-year bowl ban.
3) During Monday’s teleconference, veteran sportswriter and Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs asked how Butch Davis, the man who oversaw the Carolina football program for four and a half years, could escape to Tampa unscathed and, in fact, even wealthier with a $2.7 million contract buyout for being fired without cause?
Adam Gold of 99.9 FM radio pointed out that Davis’ contract states that he could be fired “with cause” if one of his assistant coaches committed an NCAA violation. Davis also used a loophole in his contract to receive his full severance after taking a job as a “special assistant” to new Tampa Bay Bucs coach Greg Schiano. Davis claims he will do no coaching in his new NFL job, but many stories since his hiring by Schiano have referred to Davis as a “defensive coach.”
In response, former Athletic Director Dick Baddour maintained Davis cooperated fully with the NCAA and UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said paying Davis off was “our best option.” Does that mean refusing to pay Davis invites a lawsuit from the deposed coach that would be costly to defend and keep the scandal in the news?
In fact, Davis did not “cooperate fully.” He hid his cell phone use with a personal phone to the total exclusion of the cell phone and land line provided by UNC, then promised his cell phone records to the media, then stonewalled, then when fired went away and never produced anything.
4) What exactly does the vacating of 16 wins from the 2008 and 2009 seasons mean, with regard to UNC records, Butch Davis’ coaching record and career statistics of those (ineligible?) players who participated in those games?
Kevin Best, UNC’s Director of Football Communications, says the victories will be erased from those seasons and Carolina’s all-time total, but not converted to losses (such in forfeits). Thus, UNC’s official record for the 2008 and ’09 seasons will be two 0-5s in forthcoming media guides.
Under NCAA guidelines, Davis’ overall record at Carolina will be changed from 28-23 to 12-23, and Davis will not be allowed to claim those vacated victories on personal resumes, interviews and applications or in media guides of teams and schools he works for in the future.
Best said that he is clarifying how the individual statistics of players who were in those vacated wins will be handled in the official UNC records and media guides moving forward. Carolina has 45 days to submit a compliance report on all of these changes to the NCAA.
5) In light of the decision to not let former linebacker Ebele Okakpu, who was dismissed from the football team last season for a series of program violations, participate in UNC’s pro timing day in front of NFL scouts, why were Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn allowed to audition for the NFL after being ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA?
New Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham and new coach Larry Fedora have denied Okakpu’s request to appear at the timing day. Cunningham said they are trying to set a new standard of accountability for the football program, obviously wanting to distance the new coaching staff from anything related to the Davis regime.
Certainly understandable, but it raises the question of why the other three former players were allowed such access. Okakpu’s agent Lance Courtney has said “the entire situation is very strange to me and it appears to be strange to every NFL person I speak with regarding Ebele.”
Was UNC afraid that Austin, Little and Quinn had more information about NCAA violations that they threatened to expose if not permitted at the pro timing day? Austin implied as much after former teammate Michael McAdoo’s lawsuit was dismissed, saying he was ready to “spill the beans.”
6) Are there any other skeletons in the Carolina closet that will come out in the weeks and months to come, regarding Davis, Blake and the last football regime?
At one time, apparently, a half dozen former players were considering legal action against the university for lost playing time during the 2010 season that could have affected their chances to play professional football. Devon Ramsay won such a suit after missing nine games in 2010, had his eligibility restored for 2011 and received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA after tearing an ACL in the season opener against James Madison. Ramsay, apparently, had six commas changed or added to a paper by Wiley or another tutor.
McAdoo, a defensive end, sued the NCAA and UNC for losing his eligibility, forced a telephone hearing with the NCAA and when his eligibility was not restored saw his lawsuit dismissed in North Carolina Superior Court. McAdoo, who entered the NFL supplementary draft and subsequently signed with the Baltimore Ravens, is appealing the dismissal because his family says it wants to keep public attention on the procedures and policies of the NCAA.
7) What additional questions do you have? Log in as a Chapelboro insider and post your questions at the bottom of this column.http://chapelboro.com/columns/sports-notebook/unanswered-questions/