Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Austin suspended; more news expected Friday

North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who has been interviewed as part of the NCAA's investigation into possible improper benefits provided to players by sports agents, was suspended indefinitely Wednesday for violating team rules and neglecting his responsibilities to the team.

That means the star senior will not travel to Atlanta for UNC's season opener against No. 21 LSU in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff on Saturday. And sometime before the 18th-ranked Tar Heels board the team the bus at 9:30 a.m. Friday, the school plans to announce who else won't be making the trip, athletic director Dick Baddour said.

"If we have guys in question, they won't travel," Baddour said in a telephone interview. "And if that question is eliminated, then we would try to get them down there Saturday."

The Tar Heels are mired in two investigations: the one by the NCAA, which began in early July, and the school's own probe, announced last Thursday, into whether a former tutor who was employed by both the school and Tar Heels football coach Butch Davis committed academic misconduct while working with football players.

Davis said in a prepared statement Wednesday that "this decision is not a result of the ongoing NCAA review." Baddour reiterated that sentiment, saying that no one should assume the suspension had anything to do with breaking NCAA or academic rules.

A team spokesman would not say Wednesday what team rules were broken.

A criminal background check on Austin on Wednesday showed no felonies. He is scheduled to be in Orange County District Court on Sept. 15 for the following charges: a Feb. 10 citation for a misdemeanor noise ordinance violation; a May 7 driving without registration citation; a May 7 citation for improper window tinting.

The 6-feet-3, 310-pound starter has not been available to talk to reporters since the NCAA investigation began, but in a message posted Sunday night around 9:30 p.m. on what appears to be his Facebook page, Austin, appeared to break his silence: "I came back to school to have my character questioned..[expletive]..i thought education was key.. I don't really understand...i though it was the right thing to do. maybe i was mistaken," the message said. "...i like to say thanx to all those who stand by me i really appreciate [sic] it. oh yea and to those who wanna see me fall i wont cause i don't great athletes stay on their feet!!!!!"

ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. ranks Austin as the top defensive tackle and No. 23 overall prospect on his draft board. The player received a second-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board after his junior season but opted to return to college, a decision he announced on his Twitter page in January.

Wide receiver Greg Little's father has also said that his son was interviewed by the NCAA as part of its agent investigation. It's unclear how many athletes were questioned in that probe, or how many have since been questioned as part of UNC's academic investigation.

Baddour said Wednesday "we are definitely making progress," in both investigations, and the school is sharing information from its academic probe with the NCAA as it tries to determine whether any rules were broken. Winston Crisp, UNC's vice chancellor for student affairs, has joined the school's team that is looking into academic misconduct, and Baddour said they are working around the clock to try to find answers.

Baddour would not say whether the tutor in question has been interviewed, citing the ongoing investigation. A source told The News & Observer that the probe centers around whether the tutor, who no longer works for the school or Davis, improperly helped players with papers for classes. Asked if she had worked with other athletes besides football players, Baddour said: "I can't tell you that. That is still part of our own review, and until I'm in a position to have an opportunity to examine that in a thorough way, I think it's best that I not identify any other team."

He said the school has been able to clear some football players of wrong-doing, although he would not say how many, again because the investigation is ongoing. He also said that when the school announces who won't make the Friday trip to Atlanta, it won't mention the names of the players who have been exonerated.

"We would only mention names of people who were not on the roster," Baddour said. "We would not mention names of people who had been in review on one side or the other, or cleared. We would only be talking about people who were not going to participate."

If a player is ineligible for competition per NCAA guidelines, the school cannot pay for any travel expenses. If the player travels on his own dime, the NCAA allows him to be on the sideline at the school's discretion, but not in uniform. (Baddour said he has not yet discussed with Davis whether any Tar Heels will have that option.)

If a player is suspended for breaking a school rule, but remains eligible for competition per NCAA guidelines, he can travel with the team and can be in uniform, if the school permits.

Technically, an athlete involved in an ongoing investigation can play. "However, if it is later determined that the student-athlete was ineligible - and still played - games could potentially be forfeited," Amy Herman, UNC's assistant athletic director for compliance, wrote in an e-mail.

Baddour, without distinguishing between investigations, said he expected that some, but not all, decisions about players would be made before the first game. He cautioned that when the school does announce who is - and is not - traveling to this weekend’s game, people should understand that the list "may be fluid. There may be some alterations after we say that, but we've got to work towards that. We're just hoping that we can hold on and be in a position. We want to be able to give the most up-to-date and accurate information, and it's worth waiting a little longer to do that."

Robbi Pickeral

Staff Writers J.P. Giglio, Ken Tysiac and staff researcher Brooke Cain contributed to this report.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

LOL!

Anonymous said...

I have heard at least 15 players will not be going to the LSU game.

Also, heard Quinn and Sturdivant are in trouble for agent contact.

Nannygate, agent contact, crooked coach, academic fraud, etc....

where does it end?

Anonymous said...

I've heard that Austin and one other player are the only ones not traveling to Atlanta. My information is vastly superior to the Anonymous wuffie jerk from 11:41pm.

I've also heard that NC State players don't go to class and have their grades fixed and smoke dope in the Velvet Cloak Inn all night.

Anonymous said...

@ 7:34

i heard your mom was seen at the velvet cloak and that she will also be traveling with the team to atlanta. its still unclear if she will be suiting up for the game though