Sunday, October 31, 2010

Clemson's Ellington out; N.C. State ranked

Clemson running back Andre Ellington will miss at least the next two games with a toe injury suffered in a loss 16-10 Saturday at Boston College, coach Dabo Swinney announced Sunday.

The injury means that N.C. State (6-2, 3-1 ACC) will not have to face the most productive player on the Tigers' offense when it visits Clemson on Saturday. The ACC announced Sunday that the game will kick off at noon at Clemson's Memorial Stadium.

Ellington leads Clemson with 686 rushing yards and leads the ACC in all-purpose yards with 128.9 per game.

N.C. State, meanwhile, crept back into the rankings in both The Associated Press' and USA Today polls on Sunday after edging Florida State 28-24 on Thursday night. The Wolfpack is No. 23 in the AP poll and No. 25 in the USA Today poll.

The AP also ranked N.C. State No. 23 after the Wolfpack improved to 4-0 with a Thursday night win over Cincinnati on Sept. 25. N.C. State dropped out of the rankings after losing 41-30 to Virginia Tech on Oct.. 2.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, October 29, 2010

Pack notes: Wolff holds on

RALEGH - The scene of N.C. State sophomore safety Earl Wolff hanging on desperately to the back of wide receiver Taiwan Easterling's jersey late in the fourth quarter Thursday night must have brought back some unpleasant memories for Wolfpack fans.

Last year, Wolff held on in a similar fashion at Virginia Tech as running back Ryan Williams dragged him 10 yards into the end zone during a Hokie win. This time, though, Wolff kept Easterling from breaking loose and brought him down after a 29-yard gain.

Five plays later, Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder lost a fumble that was recovered by Nate Irving, and the Wolfpack held on to win 28-24 at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Wolff had one of the best games of his career. He led N.C. State with nine tackles unofficially, had a half-tackle for loss and broke up one pass.

"Earl Wolff seemed to be in a lot of places, made a lot of tackles and showed up a lot," coach Tom O'Brien said. "Hopefully he's grown up and taken another step forward."

- N.C. State established a season high for rushing yards with 189 against Florida State, but has yet to have anybody rush for 100 yards in a game this season.

Freshman running back Mustafa Greene led the Wolfpack with 76 rushing yards, and quarterback Russell Wilson added a season-high 69 yards. The highest single-game rushing total for an N.C. State player this season belongs to Greene, who carried 10 times for 91 yards against Virginia Tech.

The Wolfpack has been splitting carries between Greene and Dean Haynes for much of the season, and has added James Washington into the mix at running back.

- The prolific N.C. State attack has accomplished at least one historical first.

The Wolfpack has scored at least 27 points in each of its first eight games. That's something no N.C. State team has accomplished, even during Philip Rivers' time at quarterback.

With Rivers at the controls in 2002, N.C. State scored at least 32 points in its first seven games, but scored 24 against Duke in the eighth game of the season.

Ken Tysiac

Win gives Pack headstart in Atlantic Division

RALEIGH -- When Christian Ponder’s fumble turned an all-but-certain touchdown into a 28-24 comeback win for N.C. State, that chain of events turned the ACC’s Atlantic Division on its ear.

A win by the Seminoles would have made them 5-0 in the ACC and given them a huge head start on Maryland, the division’s other one-loss team. Instead, the Wolfpack wiggled its way into prime position as one of three teams with one loss (with Clemson lurking at 2-2) and the head-to-head tiebreaker over Florida State.

Assuming Maryland isn’t in it to win it -- and while that may be a foolhardy assumption, that big loss to Clemson and the lack of a marquee ACC win bolsters it for now -- the division title is likely to come down to two games: N.C. State at Clemson on Nov. 6 and Clemson at Florida State on Nov. 13.

It’s more than possible, after Thursday’s game, that a two-loss team represents the Atlantic in the ACC Championship Game on Dec. 4. That’s what Clemson is hoping at this point, anyway. The Wolfpack has a simpler equation: Win out.

That would require three tough road wins -- at Clemson, at North Carolina and at Maryland -- but after Thursday’s win, N.C. State controls its own destiny on the road to Charlotte.

Here are the standings and remaining ACC schedule for the Atlantic Division teams:

Florida State 4-1
N.C. State 3-1
Maryland 2-1
Clemson 2-2
Wake Forest 1-3
Boston College 0-4

Oct. 30

Clemson at Boston College
Wake Forest at Maryland

Nov. 6

N.C. State at Clemson
Maryland at Miami
Boston College at Wake Forest
North Carolina at Florida State

Nov. 13

Boston College at Duke
Clemson at Florida State
Maryland at Virginia
Wake Forest at N.C. State

Nov. 20

Virginia at Boston College
Clemson at Wake Forest
Florida State at Maryland
N.C. State at North Carolina

Nov. 27

N.C. State at Maryland

-- Luke DeCock

Thursday, October 28, 2010

FSU-N.C. State Observations

* Thursday night was a huge opportunity for N.C. State to make a statement as a program on national television, and the school was up to the task in terms of atmosphere.

The crowd packed the stands and was louder than it’s been at any time during coach Tom O’Brien’s tenure. The school ratcheted up the intensity, too, but honoring David Thompson during a second-quarter timeout in recognition of his upcoming induction into the Naismith College Basketball Hall of Fame.

* The big question entering the game was whether Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder had recovered from a ruptured bursa sac in his right (throwing) elbow.

Ponder quickly demonstrated plenty of arm strength on a deep pass that was broken up by C.J. Wilson and another that should have been intercepted by Wilson but ricocheted off his chest and incomplete.

* N.C. State starting running back Dean Haynes had a difficult night.

His second-quarter fumble at the Wolfpack 18-yard line led to a Florida State go-ahead touchdown. Nigel Bradham caused the fumble by putting his helmet on the ball, and Florida State scored five plays later.

Later in the quarter, it was announced that Haynes was out for the remainder of the game with a suspected concussion.

* It wasn’t the same this week watching Florida State play without Bobby Bowden.

Bowden, who was ousted after last season, wasn’t just one of the best football coaches in the nation for more than a generation. He was a master communicator with a great sense of humor who made covering Florida State fun.

His successor, Jimbo Fisher, is off to a good start. But nobody can match Bowden in terms of personality.

- Ken Tysiac

Pack trails FSU at halftime

RALEIGH - A disastrous second quarter this evening left N.C. State trailing 16th-ranked Florida State 21-7 at halftime at Carter-Finley Stadium in a key game in the ACC Atlantic Division standings.

After scoring on a 1-yard Russell Wilson run on its opening drive, N.C. State was shut out for the rest of the half. Florida State's offense started slowly, but quarterback Christian Ponder ran for two touchdowns and passed for another in the second quarter as Florida State outscored the Wolfpack 21-0.

Florida State outgained N.C. State 167 yards to 14 in the second quarter and capitalized on a Dean Haynes fumble at the Wolfpack 18 to score the go-ahead touchdown.

Wilson was just 6-for-14 passing for 49 yards in the first half.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Burney cleared to play for UNC

UNC senior cornerback Kendric Burney has been cleared to play this Saturday against William & Mary, the university announced Tuesday afternoon.

A first-team All-ACC performer last season, Burney has yet to play this season for the Tar Heels. He was suspended six games for violations of NCAA agent benefits and preferential treatment rules and was scheduled to return in time for Saturday's game against Miami.

But Burney was held out of the game, a 33-10 loss to the Hurricanes, while UNC worked with the NCAA to determine his eligibility status.

-- Lorenzo Perez

Tudor's Take: ECU's Harris pays price for success

While running up one of the most prolific statistical seasons in ECU football history, Pirate receiver Dwayne Harris also is among the team leaders in hits absorbed.

A 6-foot, 205-pound senior with NFL potential, Harris leads Conference USA in receiving with 54 catches for 604 yards and five touchdown through the team's 5-2 overall, 4-0 league start.

In all-purpose yardage, Harris rates No. 2 in the league with an average of 160 per game. He's also thrown a touchdown pass of 39 yards to fellow wide-out Joe Womack.

But in the process, Harris is taking a beating and sat out several plays in last week's win over Marshall after a hit to his helmet on a punt return created some concern on the sidelines and a great deal more among fans in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

At his news conference on Monday in Greenville, Pirate coch Ruffin McNeill said Harris will be ready for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game at Central Florida (5-2, 3-0). But McNeill also has gone through some tense moments watching the hits.

"I was worried Saturday. The football part I love, but I wasn't worried about football with him. I was just hoping he was alright," McNeill said.

"He is as beat up as anybody after the game but finds a way to get ready. He does not miss practice or reps. We have to hold him back.

McNeill and offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley have compared Harris to Michael Crabtree, the former Texas Tech star and No. 10 overall draft pick in 2009 by San Francisco.
"Down for down, I'd be shocked if there's a better receiver in the country," Riley said. "I don't know if you'll ever see a much better blocker for a guy who does all the things Dwayne does in catching the ball and kick returns."

Central Florida coach George O'Leary emphasized stopping Harris only minutes after his team's win over Rice last weekend.

"No. 17 has given us fits in the past - [Dwayne] Harris. You know, I think as good a receiver he is, I think he's a better return guy," O'Leary said.

-- Caulton Tudor

Sunday, October 17, 2010

UNC RB Houston could redshirt

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Senior tailback Ryan Houston was back in uniform Saturday after sitting out UNC’s first five games as part of the NCAA’s investigation into agent benefits and possible academic misconduct. But he did not play during the Tar Heels' 44-10 victory, leaving open the possibility that he might redshirt, and return next season.

“We’re going to talk with Ryan. There was a discussion about the possibility – might he redshirt and come back and play next year? [With the] health to this football team, who knows?” coach Butch Davis said. “It’s hard to project.

“… We obviously didn’t find out [about his return] until late Thursday night, and he had missed all the week’s preparation. Bombs would have had to go off, and he could have gone in, and he could have played a little bit at running back, but he hadn’t had any contact, he hadn’t been hit in six or seven weeks. … This just came totally out of left field, and kind of caught us all off-guard and unprepared. I want to talk to his mom and dad, and probably him, Monday, and find out [about redshirting]. As I told him today, ‘Be ready, be focused, be prepared to come in, and maybe potentially help us if we need it. Hopefully, a disaster won’t come off, and we can have a calm discussion about it.’

“But if that had happened, there’s no question in my mind that he would have run out there, and we’d have started handing the ball to 32 and pounding.”

-- Robbi Pickeral

UNC's Pianalto fractures fibula

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. –  It looked as if senior Zack Pianalto’s touchdown jinx might be over Saturday night when the North Carolina tight end managed to haul in a 1-yard touchdown reception, celebrate, and leave the end zone with nary a limp.

Until about 4 minutes later, when he hobbled to the sideline with a fractured right fibula.

With 2:35 left in the second quarter, Pianalto caught a 7-yard pass from quarterback T.J. Yates, then was tackled by two Cavaliers. The pop by cornerback Chase Minnifield earned a 15-yard personal foul penalty for Virginia, and Pianalto hopped off the field – and then to the locker room -- on one leg.

-- Robbi Pickeral

Saturday, October 16, 2010

UNC's Euwell cleared; Burney has new issues

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- UNC will get one more player back, reserve defensive end Linwan Euwell, but the school announced this afternoon that All-ACC cornerback Kendric Burney has an "unresolved issue" related to the ongoing NCAA investigation.

Burney was suspended six games by the NCAA for receiving agent-related benefits. He was supposed to return next week but UNC announced that Burney has an "unresolved issues related to the ongoing review and his status for the Miami game is undetermined at this point."

"There have been multiple issues [with Burney]," UNC athletic director Dick Baddour said Saturday at Scott Stadium. "We've been working on them for some time. We had hoped that all of those issues would be resolved by this time but that hasn't happened unfortunately.

"It is possible that it will be resolved by the Miami game. It's possible that it will be resolved favorably, and it's possible that it will not be resolved favorably."

Euwell, who has sat out the first five games, has been cleared. Reserve safety Brian Gupton, who also has sat out the first five games, will not play this season.

UNC did not specify the details for either Euwell or Gupton. The school, with the NCAA, is investigating cases of academic misconduct and several players have been scheduled for the school's honor court. Due to privacy laws, UNC is not allowed to comment on specific academic issues.

UNC had 13 players suspended or withheld from the season-opener on Sept. 4 and a 14th player, fullback Devon Ramsay, was added to the list last Saturday. Five players have been ruled out for the seaosn, either by UNC or the NCAA, five players have been cleared and four players, including Burney, are still in limbo.

Running back Ryan Houston was cleared on Thursday and is expected to play today.

The players involved in the investigation to date:

OUT (5)
*DT Marvin Austin
*WR Greg Little
*DE Robert Quinn
S Jonathan Smith
S Brian Gupton

Cleared (5)
RB Ryan Houston (five games)
DE Linwan Euwell (five games)
*S Deunta Williams (four games)
S Da'Norris Searcy (three games)
RB Shaun Draughn (one game)

Limbo (4)
DE Michael McAdoo
CB Charles Brown
FB Devon Ramsay
*CB Kendric Burney (serving six-game agent-related suspension)

Note: * - agent-related suspensions or dismissals. Due to privacy laws, UNC cannot comment on the specifics of the academic-related investigation.

Fast start propels ECU to halftime lead

GREENVILLE - After a fired-up East Carolina team scored 21 straight points to open the game, N.C. State recovered in the second quarter this afternoon to trail 24-21 at halftime.

East Carolina roared out to a 21-0 lead as Dominique Davis completed all 14 of his first-half pass attempts for 109 yards and two touchdowns.

The Wolfpack appeared helpless on defense as the Pirates rolled to 165 yards in the first quarter. Jon Williams ran 5 yards for a touchdown, and Davis threw scoring passes of 11 yards to Lance Lewis and 3 yards to Justin Jones.

But N.C. State changed from its traditional 4-3 look on defense to a 3-3-5, slowing the Pirates’ passing game, and got its offense moving in the second quarter.

After an apparent interception by East Carolina’s Bradley Jacobs was wiped out by a pass interference penalty, Wilson passed 49 yards to T.J. Graham for a score. Another 49-yard pass, to Owen Spencer, set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Wilson.

The Pirates added used a 41-yard pass from Davis to Dwayne Harris to set up a 35-yard field goal by Michael Barbour, and appeared ready to head into halftime with a double-digit lead when Wilson and Mustafa Greene fumbled an exchange at the Pirates’ 7-yard line.

But Nate Irving stripped Williams two plays later, and Jeff Rieskamp recovered at the East Carolina 1-yard line. Dean Haynes’ 1-yard touchdown run cut East Carolina’s lead to 24-21 going into halftime.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, October 14, 2010

UNC's Houston cleared to return

North Carolina got Ryan Houston, its leading rusher in 2009, back on Thursday and took another step closer to completing the individual cases in an ongoing academic- and agent-related NCAA investigations of the football program.

Thirteen players were suspended or held out of the season-opener against Louisiana State, and a 14th player was added to the list last Saturday. Five players remain in limbo as the season enters its seventh week.

Houston, who sat out the first five games, is the fourth player to be cleared to return. UNC did not specify why Houston did not play in the first five games.

Houston, a senior from Charlotte, led UNC with 713 rushing yards and nine touchdowns in 2009. He did not participate in spring practice in order to concentrate on academics.

-- J.P. Giglio

Sturdivant closer to return for UNC

Injured UNC linebacker Quan Sturdivant is closer to getting back on the field but still not 100 percent, UNC coach Butch Davis said Thursday.

Sturdivant has missed the past two games with an injured left hamstring. He suffered the injury early in the fourth quarter of UNC's 17-13 win at Rutgers on Sept. 25 and hasn't played since.

Sturdivant has been limited in practice in the past three weeks but will travel to Charlottesville, Va. for UNC's game against Virginia on Saturday, Davis said.

"He is a little bit closer," Davis said. "It will still be a game-time decision. He's not 100 percent, we're still a couple of days away [so] we'll see."

Sturdivant ranks third on the team in tackles (27) despite playing in only three games. The All-ACC outside linebacker has been replaced in the lineup by Zach Brown, who leads UNC with 28 tackles.

-- J.P. Giglio

Quinn apologizes in statement released by UNC

Robert Quinn, UNC's All-ACC defensive end in 2009 and one of the top prospects in the NFL draft, released a statement for the first time since being ruled ineligible by the NCAA and dismissed from the football team.

Quinn said:

"I first would like to say how thankful I am to God for being able to attend the University of North Carolina. I want to thank the coaching staff for recruiting me and giving me the opportunity to come to such a prestigious university despite the fact that I was suffering from a brain tumor. I want to thank my teammates for making the time I had on the football field some of the best times in my life. I also want to thank them for their friendship and willingness to stand by me through my growth as a person. It is with that in mind that I want to convey my sincere apologies to both my teammates and my coaches for bringing this burden upon them.

"Even though this unfortunate situation is a tough time in my life, it is something I will be able to overcome. Having a brain tumor has truly been the most difficult thing I have had to deal with in my life. I was told at one point that I would be brain dead and unable to play sports ever again. Having to deal with something of that magnitude has allowed me to put this situation in its proper perspective, accept it and learn from it.

"I’m very thankful to all my supporters who have encouraged and prayed for me throughout this entire process. I appreciate the University of North Carolina for keeping the door open for me to receive a college education. It has made dealing with these circumstances easier knowing that there are people who can see past my mistakes and still view me as a good person. While I have this time away from football I will do my best to continue to give back to the community in a positive manner.

I wish my team good luck for the rest of this season and I want them to know that I am and always will be a Tar Heel at heart."

--- J.P. Giglio

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Little apologizes in statement released by UNC

Former North Carolina tailback/ wide receiver Greg Little -- who was ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA on Monday for violation of NCCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules -- released this statement through the school Tuesday:

"One of my greatest accomplishments was receiving a scholarship to the University of North Carolina. Representing the University was a true honor and I am so appreciative of Coach [Butch] Davis and his staff for giving me the opportunity to achieve my dream of playing for North Carolina. I want to apologize first to my teammates, coaches, and the support staff for letting them down. To the community of Chapel Hill, students, alumni, and supporters of the University, I am terribly remorseful.

The recent decision from the NCAA regarding my eligibility as a collegiate athlete is extremely painful, and has been a distraction from the team throughout the past five months. My situation should not take away from any of the team's current accomplishments or future accomplishments. Now that I am no longer a part of the program, I hope my actions will not distract the team any longer.

For the remainder of this semester, I will continue to pursue my education at North Carolina. I understand the negative connotations associated with my punishment, but I would like to continue to be active in the community and participate in various outreach programs that I have always enjoyed.

There are defining moments in everyone's life. I will use this as one of mine to shape and mold my morals and values as person. My time at UNC came to an abrupt conclusion, but I will forever be a proud supporter of the Tar Heels and the University of North Carolina."

-- Robbi Pickeral

SI story mentions Wichard-Blake connection

Josh Luchs, a former agent and assistant of Gary Wichard, wrote a cover story for Sports Illustrated on the relationship between agents and college football players, titled "Confessions of a former NFL agent."

In the article, Luchs writes about Wichard and former UNC associate head coach John Blake. The excerpts from the article:

Gary used his contacts in the coaching community to help him get players. This has recently come into public view, as the NCAA and the state of North Carolina are investigating the Tar Heels football program and whether John Blake, a Carolina assistant coach since 2007, steered players to Gary and received money from him. It's no secret in the agent business that some college coaches steer players to certain agents. I laughed when I heard Gary deny in the media that John ever worked with Pro Tect.

When I was with Gary, John worked hand in hand with us, and Gary called him his "partner." John was the defensive line coach of the Dallas Cowboys when they won Super Bowls XXVIII and XXX, and the head coach at Oklahoma from '96 through '98. He was one of the best recruiters I'd ever seen. He was just electric, and I leveraged him to get clients whenever I could. In '02 two of the biggest clients we got were due, in large part, to John. He went with Gary and me to meet with Fresno State defensive lineman Alan Harper, and Gary and I had John work out defensive end Kenyon Coleman from UCLA before his senior year. That was an NCAA violation, but it wasn't like paying a kid. It was helping Kenyon become a better player.

J.P. Giglio

LIVE chat with Scott Fowler noon-1

Chat live with Observer sports columnist Scott Fowler from noon to 1 p.m. today. We'll launch about 11:45 and start taking your questions. Click here for the link. Can't join us? You can replay the chat later today at the same address.

Monday, October 11, 2010

UNC, NCAA not saying who provided improper benefits to players

UNC and the NCAA will not reveal who provided benefits to UNC players Greg Little, Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin, even as coaches here and across the country criticize, in broad terms, the influence of agents on college players.

The NCAA blasted Little and Quinn Monday in ruling them forever ineligible to play college football as a result of taking a combined $10,000 in trips, jewelry and more -- and not telling the truth about it.

Separately, UNC said Austin also took benefits, worth at least $10,000, and kicked him out of the program without even submitting his case to the NCAA.

In news releases, both UNC and the NCAA say the players broke rules about receiving agent benefits.

Alabama coach Nick Saban has called agents "pimps." One of his players, Marcell Dareus, was sanctioned this season for receiving improper agent benefits related to two trips to Miami.

Austin, Little and Quinn are also being sanctioned, in part, for taking trips to Miami.

UNC head coach Butch Davis has said agents make life difficult for coaches.
A spokesman for the NCAA said the organization doesn't have oversight of agents and will remain silent on that aspect of the investigation.

"NCAA decisions are regarding those our rules have jurisdiction over," NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said.

She referred other questions to UNC.

Neither Athletic Director Dick Baddour nor Chancellor Holden Thorp would name names.

Baddour said he couldn't even say how many people were involved in giving improper benefits to players.

"It's so varied I'm not prepared to speak off the cuff on that," he said.
Asked if it was safe to say that multiple agents are involved, he also hesitated and said he wasn't sure how to answer.

"You kind of get wrapped up in who's an agent, who's not an agent, who was representing someone - was it a friend or whatever," he said. "You should think about it in terms of agents, but you also have to think of it in terms of extra benefits and preferential treatment and all of that when you're accumulating the dollars involved."

The phrases "extra benefits" and "preferential treatment" generally refer to NCAA rules against athletes receiving any special arrangements from university employees, boosters or others, including former players. The university has previously said, for example, that a tutor who was an employee had been too close with players.

Baddour said there is no evidence the athletes had committed to any agent for representation.

Baddour also said there is no evidence that the gifts or benefits to the players were tied to former associate head coach John Blake, who resigned last month as the university learned that he had been receiving money from sports agent Gary Wichard. Blake and Wichard say the money was loans to Blake or was gifts to cover private school tuition for Blake's son, and that they have a long relationship in which they consider each other like brothers.

-- J. Andrew Curliss

Staff writer Robbi Pickeral contributed to this report.

UNC's Austin apologizes

Defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who was dismissed today from the North Carolina football team, apologized in a statement issued by his lawyer, Christopher G. Lyons of Miami.

The full text of the statement follows:

"I want to apologize to the NCAA and the entire North Carolina Tar Heel community including my teammates, coaches, students and fans. I have let you all down and I am truly sorry.

"I deeply regret my actions and the embarrassment I brought to the university and to the football program. I will pay a severe price for my poor decisions by not being able to play my entire senior season.

"I want to thank everyone who has supported me throughout this investigation. The lessons I have learned during this process will guide me the rest of my life. I love my Carolina family and I will work my hardest to make you all proud of me."

Austin was dismissed by the school for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules. North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour said there's some uncertainty on the amount of benefits Austin received, but said it is in the $10,000 to $13,000 range.

He had been suspended indefinitely since Sept. 1 for violating team rules.

Ken Tysiac

UNC's Austin, Little, Quinn out for good

The college football careers of North Carolina seniors Marvin Austin and Greg Little and junior Robert Quinn are over as the result of an NCAA investigation into the Tar Heels program.

UNC dismissed Austin has been dismissed from the team, and Little and Quinn have been ruled permanently ineligible because of untruthfulness, Chancellor Holden Thorp said this morning.

In a news release, UNC stated that the total value of benefits received was $4,952 for Little and $5,642 for Quinn, according to information submitted to the NCAA by the university.

Little was found to have accepted diamond earrings and travel accommodations to the Bahamas, Washington, D.C., and two trips to Miami, among other benefits. Quinn’s benefits were found to include two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel to Miami.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, October 9, 2010

UNC withholds another; Smith out for season

North Carolina will hold fullback Devon Ramsay out of today's game with Clemson as part of the ongoing NCAA investigation into possible agent extra benefits and academic misconduct, the school announced.

The school also announced that Jonathan Smith, a reserve safety who has been withheld from games so far this season, will miss the rest of the 2010 season. He will have one year of eligibility remaining.

Ramsay's situation means nine players won't play today for North Carolina whose status - publicly at least - is uncertain. Those players are Michael McAdoo, Marvin Austin, Greg Little, Linwan Euwell, Brian Gupton, Robert Quinn, Ryan Houston, Charles Brown and Ramsay.

A 10th player, cornerback Kendric Burney, has two more games to serve (including today's) on a six-game NCAA suspension. Deunta Williams, who served a four-game NCAA suspension, returns to the field today.

“It is unfortunate that we have to hold out an additional student-athlete, but as we have stated, we are still in the process of gathering information related to the investigation,” athletic director Dick Baddour said in a statement. “Yesterday (Friday), we learned information that requires us to hold him out of competition.

“I caution against making judgments as it will take time to process Devon’s situation, just as it has for other student-athletes.”

Ken Tysiac

Pack builds double-digit lead over BC

N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien is having few problems against his former team this time.

O’Brien, who was 0-3 against Boston College before today, directed the Wolfpack to a 27-10 halftime lead over the Eagles at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Quarterback Russell Wilson threw touchdown passes of 23 yards to Owen Spencer and 5 yards to Darrell Davis, overcoming a pair of interceptions. N.C. State built a 10-0 lead on a 40-yard Josh Czajkowski field goal and a punt block by Dontae Johnson that D.J. Green recovered in the end zone.

It was N.C. State’s third blocked punt in four games. The Wolfpack also blocked a punt for its first touchdown on Sept. 25 at Georgia Tech.

A 37-yard pass from Wilson to tight end George Bryan set up the score by Spencer, and an interception by Brandan Bishop put the Wolfpack in position to drive for Davis’ score, which increased the lead to 24-3.

Boston College finally reached the end zone on a 15-yard pass from Dave Shinskie to Ifeanyi Momah with 2 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the first half as officials ruled he crossed the goal line before Bishop stripped the ball away from him.

But Czajkowski drilled a 44-yard field goal with 9.4 seconds remaining to provide the 17-point margin at halftime.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, October 8, 2010

UNC official refutes rumors on Butch Davis' future

The chairwoman of the UNC system's Board of Governors refuted message-board rumors that the board had instructed UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp this week to fire Tar Heels football coach Butch Davis.

"None of that happened. None, none, none," said Hannah Gage, the board's chairwoman. "I can assure that none of that happened. That hasn't been part of any discussion we've had."

The system board rarely, if ever, gets involved athletics oversight, a function delegated to individual campuses, Gage said.

"The only reason we'd get involved is if we lacked the confidence in a campus's ability to sort through something," Gage said. "That simply isn't the case here."

Speaking to a faculty group Friday afternoon, Thorp reiterated concerns about Davis' handling of the situation regarding former UNC associate head coach John Blake and Blake's relationship with a sports agent.

An NCAA investigation into the situation, as well as into potential cases of academic misconduct involving UNC football players, is continuing.

As he did earlier in the week, Thorp said Davis should have had a better grasp of what Blake was doing.

"We've had a lot of long talks about that," Thorp told UNC's Faculty Council. "We have a lot of work to do to understand why the head coach didn't know about that contact [with agent Gary Wichard]."

-- Eric Ferreri, The News & Observer

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Officials: NCAA probe of UNC may take a year

The NCAA's investigation into the University of North Carolina football program may take a year to complete, university officials said Thursday.

The NCAA's investigation of individual players and their improper contact with sports agents will likely be resolved far sooner, those officials said in a meeting with members of the UNC system's Board of Governors.

The university is looking into allegations about players' involvement with agents as well is potential academic cheating. The university has turned over its findings related to academics to the student attorney general's office, which may resolve those issues in the next several weeks, UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said Thursday.

The NCAA's investigation of individual players is on a "similar, if not faster time scale," he said.

Thorp appeared at a meeting of the UNC system's governing board for the second straight month and has pledged to keep report to the board regularly until the football matter is resolved.

Eric Ferreri

Reserve Pack OL out with injury

N.C. State reserve offensive lineman Duran Christophe will miss Saturday's game against Boston College with an ankle injury, according to a school injury report released today.

Christophe had played 30 snaps against Virginia Tech and 63 snaps against Georgia Tech in the Wolfpack's two most recent games.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, October 4, 2010

Lawyers: Wichard gave 'gifts' to Blake in 2008, 2009

Lawyers for former North Carolina associate head coach John Blake said this afternoon that agent Gary Wichard provided “gifts” to Blake to pay for Blake’s son’s private school tuition while Blake was coaching at North Carolina.

William Beaver, Blake’s Orlando-based lawyer, said in a teleconference call with reporters today that Wichard gave Blake money for the tuition on one occasion in 2008 and twice more in 2009. Beaver said Wichard is the godfather of Blake’s son.

On Thursday, Beaver had said the last of the monies provided to Blake by Wichard was exchanged “if not over three years ago, right around three years ago.” This afternoon, Beaver said he was hurried last week and didn’t have a chance to adequately review the records before a Thursday teleconference call with reporters.

North Carolina announced Blake’s hiring in December of 2006, three years and nine months ago.

Blake’s lawyers confirmed that Blake has spoken to Alabama defensive tackle Marcell Dareus, but did not confirm reports that Blake encouraged Dareus to sign with Wichard. Dareus was suspended for the first two games of the season for receiving impermissible benefits.

According to Blake’s lawyers, Blake and Dareus discussed Dareus’ mother, who was ill, and that Dareus was being besieged by agents.

Beaver said Blake “has testified that he has not functioned in a manner that in his mind has attempted to funnel, push, direct any athlete toward Gary Wichard.”

Ken Tysiac

Saban says he doesn't know about Blake, Dareus

Alabama football coach Nick Saban said he doesn't know anything about Yahoo! Sports and reports that former North Carolina associate head coach John Blake tried to encourage Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus to sign with agent Gary Wichard.

"First of all, I don’t know anything about this," Saban said this afternoon at his weekly news conference. "Secondly, to me, it’s something that’s been water under the bridge for several months now and is somewhere down in the Gulf of Mexico now.

"I really don’t have much care about talking about that. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the honesty, integrity and professionalism of what we do as coaches. And if somebody does something to violate that, everybody can make their judgment as to what that is."

Citing unnamed sources, Yahoo! Sports and have reported that Blake lobbied Dareus to sign with Wichard. Dareus served a two-game suspension at the beginning of the season for accepting improper benefits.

One of Blake's lawyers, Wade Smith, said this morning that he can't comment on the reports because the allegations are new to him and he hasn't had time to examine them.

Ken Tysiac

Reports: Blake lobbied Dareus for Wichard

Citing anonymous sources, Yahoo! Sports and are reporting that former North Carolina associate head coach John Blake lobbied Alabama defensive lineman Marcell Dareus to sign with agent Gary Wichard.

"These allegations are new to me," Wade Smith, Blake's Raleigh-based lawyer, said this morning. "I have not had an opportunity to examine them, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment about them."

Blake's lawyers have admitted that Wichard has made payments of an undisclosed amount to Blake. Another Blake lawyer, William Beaver, has said the payments ended "if not over three years ago, right around three years ago."

Blake's lawyers have categorized the payments as loans and said Blake has told them he has not steered players to Wichard.

"If that happened, then we will be as upset as we can be," Smith said last week. "But we believe based on everything that we have learned ourselves that that is the truth."

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wolfpack leads Virginia Tech 17-7 at halftime

N.C. State lost some of its early steam in the second quarter, but still leads Virginia Tech 17-7 at halftime this afternoon at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Russell Wilson threw first-quarter touchdown passes of 7 yards to George Bryan and 2 yards to Dean Haynes, and No. 23-ranked N.C. State led 17-0 after a 37-yard field goal by Josh Czajkowski in the opening minute of the second quarter.

But Jayron Hosley intercepted Wilson once at the Virginia Tech 18 and another time in the end zone in the second quarter, thwarting Wolfpack scoring opportunities. Hokie quarterback Tyrod Taylor broke loose for a 71-yard run to set up a 9-yard touchdown pass to Andre Smith, and Virginia Tech narrowed the deficit to 10 points.

The one scoring drive was one of just a few highlights for the Hokies against an effective N.C. State defense. Middle linebacker Nate Irving made three tackles for loss, including a sack, in the first half, building on his 16-tackle performance the previous week against Georgia Tech.

Safety Brandan Bishop intercepted a Taylor pass in the first quarter and returned 39 yards to set up Wilson's scoring pass to Haynes.

Ken Tysiac

Friday, October 1, 2010

NCAA denies UNC players' appeals

An NCAA committee has denied the appeals of North Carolina football players Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams, UNC athletic director Dick Baddour announced this afternoon in a statement released by the school.

Williams will complete his four-game suspension Saturday and will return to the field Oct. 2 against Clemson. Burney will serve the final three games of his six-game suspension and will return Oct. 23 at Miami.

The NCAA suspended both players for violating NCAA rules regarding agents and extra benefits. Williams has to repay expenses for two trips to California, and Burney must repay expenses for trips to Atlanta, Las Vegas and California.

They were originally suspended Sept. 22 and already have missed the Tar Heels' first three games. The NCAA heard the players' appeal today.

Baddour had said he thought the punishment was harsh in light of the extra benefits that were received.

“I am disappointed for Deunta and Kendric, but I respect the NCAA’s decision,” Baddour said in a statement today. “I appreciate the committee allowing us the opportunity to present their case”

Ken Tysiac