Thursday, January 27, 2011

UNC promotes NCAA compliance director

North Carolina is promoting Amy Herman to associate director of athletics for compliance effective Feb. 1, the school announced this morning.

Herman has served as the school's assistant athletic director for compliance and is in her 11th year as an employee of the school's athletic department.

She will assume all responsibilities associated with directing the compliance program.

The promotion for Herman, a native of Owensville, Mo., comes as the school awaits word of whether it will be sanctioned by the NCAA for numerous violations that occurred in the football program.

Fourteen players missed at least one game and seven missed the entire 2010 season as a result of impermissible benefits and academic misconduct found in an NCAA investigation that began in July.

“Amy’s new responsibilities are a result of the compliance review that we are conducting, as well as recognition of the outstanding job Amy has done in handling compliance issues throughout her tenure,” Baddour said in a statement released by the school. “She has been most effective in managing the issues surrounding the recent NCAA investigation.”

Baddour said in November that the school would hire an additional employee in the compliance office as a result of its review of the violations that led to the NCAA action. At that time, Baddour said the new employee would oversee scholarships and financial aid to allow Herman to handle rules education, monitoring of agents and extra benefits, and other responsibilities.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Gardner-Webb makes historic football hiring

Ron Dickerson Jr. is the new football coach at Gardner-Webb University.

Dickerson, 39, was introduced at a news conference on campus this morning. He is the first African-American head football coach in Big South Conference history.

Most recently, Dickerson was receivers coach at Mississippi, where he worked under coach Houston Nutt. He was instrumental in developing NFL players Dexter McCluster, Mike Wallace and Shay Hodge.

"We have nowhere to go but up and it's going to be a fast ride. I'm ready for it," Dickerson said.

Dickerson replaces Steve Patton, who coached the Bulldogs for 14 seasons. Gardner-Webb went 4-7 in 2010.

- Ron Green Jr.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Searcy says he was cleared in UNC probe

MOBILE, Ala. – As former North Carolina safety Da’Norris Searcy practiced for the Senior Bowl on Monday, he said he will have nothing to hide from NFL scouts when they ask about the three games he missed in connection with the NCAA’s investigation of the Tar Heels’ program.

Searcy said he was held out as a precaution in the academic portion of the probe; the school has acknowledged academic misconduct on the part of a former university tutor who also worked for coach Butch Davis.

Ultimately, Searcy said, he was cleared of any wrongdoing.

“Like I told them [the NCAA] going in, I’m going to tell y’all the truth and the honest truth,” Searcy said, “and in the end they saw that I was telling the truth, and I didn’t have anything to do with it, and I was cleared.”

He was one of 14 players to miss at least one game in the probe of impermissible benefits and academic misconduct in the program; seven players missed the entire season.

Searcy said he didn’t fault UNC officials. He said they didn’t want to put the team in jeopardy of having to forfeit games for using an ineligible player.

But he said he knew he didn’t do anything wrong.

“When they finally realized that and cleared me, it was just like water under the bridge,” Searcy said. “I just went out there and played.”

Searcy and former Tar Heel teammate Kendric Burney are preparing for the Senior Bowl, which will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday and televised by the NFL Network.

Former N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving also will play in the game.

Joseph Person (reporting from Mobile, Ala.) and Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

UNC's Yates to play in all-star game

North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates has accepted an invitation to play in the NFL Players Association Texas vs. The Nation all-star game at 2 p.m. on Feb. 5 in San Antonio, the school announced Tuesday.

The game matches some of the best college players from Texas with top players from around the nation. Yates established 37 school records at North Carolina, including career passing yards and single-season passing yards.

There are now at least five former Tar Heel players preparing to perform in postseason all-star games. Marvin Austin, the defensive tackle who was dismissed from the team for violating NCAA rules, will play in the East-West Shrine Game on Saturday in Orlando.

Linebacker Quan Sturdivant, cornerback Kendric Burney and safety Da'Norris Searcy are on the roster for the Senior Bowl on Jan. 29 in Mobile, Ala.

N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving also is set to play in the Senior Bowl.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, January 17, 2011

Three UNC defenders, Pack LB Irving on Senior Bowl roster

Three North Carolina defensive players and N.C. State linebacker Nate Irving are listed on the roster for the 2011 Senior Bowl, to be held at 4 p.m. on Jan. 29 in Mobile, Ala.

Cornerback Kendric Burney, safety Da'Norris Searcy and linebacker Quan Sturdivant will represent North Carolina in the game. The NFL Network will televise the game.

Ken Tysiac

Pack's Wilson heading to spring training

N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson announced today that he plans to attend spring training with the Colorado Rockies but hasn't decided yet whether he will return to the Wolfpack for his senior football season in the fall.

"At this point in my life the best thing for me is to concentrate fully on baseball in the same way that I concentrated fully on football over the past six months," Wilson said in a statement released by the school.

"It is only fair for everyone involved that I give baseball the same time and attention that I have given football. Ultimately, decisions about my athletic future will be made based on my potential to succeed at the highest professional level."

Wilson redshirted as a freshman and already has his bachelor's degree in communications. He intends to continue pursuing his graduate degree at N.C. State and is keeping open the option of returning for football, according to school sports information director Annabelle Myers.

Last summer, Wilson was selected in the fourth round of the major league draft by the Rockies. He played for the Rockies' Class A affiliate in Pasco, Washington, before returning for preseason football camp.

In an e-mail, Myers wrote that Wilson said he will have no further comment on his plans and will not be available for interviews. Coach Tom O'Brien is on the road recruiting and will be available for comment on national signing day, Feb. 2, according to Myers.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Thorp's blog: Still uncertain how NCAA will rule

University of North Carolina chancellor Holden Thorp wrote Friday in a blog on the school’s web site that he doesn’t know when or how the NCAA will rule in terms of possible penalties for the school’s football program.

“But I do know that we have worked hard to get all of the facts, to cooperate fully with the NCAA, to do everything we could to avoid playing a potentially ineligible student in a game, and to treat our student-athletes fairly,” Thorp wrote in the message, which was addressed to UNC’s faculty.

Fourteen players missed at least one game, and seven were held out the entire season because of the NCAA’s investigation into impermissible benefits and academic misconduct at the school.

Thorp wrote that while UNC took players’ inappropriate contact with agents seriously, it was natural that as faculty members the school focused on academic misconduct. He wrote that the school’s review committee, in partnership with the NCAA, conducted more than 60 interviews with students on the football team, coaches, athletic department staff members, academic support staff and others. The NCAA visited campus seven times, and the North Carolina secretary of state’s office visited twice as part of its investigation into possible violations of the state’s uniform athlete agent act, Thorp wrote.

He praised athletic director Dick Baddour for his experience and commitment to academic integrity, and stated once again that the school has found no evidence that coach Butch Davis was involved in any of the problems that surfaced.

“Nonetheless he feels a burden of responsibility for the situation, as do Dick Baddour and I,” Thorp wrote. “The three of us have met regularly to review the facts and to talk about the future. Coach Davis, Dick Baddour and I have all been in agreement about the investigation and our response to the NCAA. I truly value that collaboration.”

Thorp wrote that a review, launched in the fall, of the school’s academic support program, is well under way, and that officials will continue to work to enhance the academic and personal success of the school’s 800 athletes in 28 sports.

“During the course of this investigation, I have gotten to know many of the members of the football team, including those who were part of the investigation and those who weren’t,” Thorp wrote. “Our primary commitment is to the welfare of these young people. They are our students.”

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

N.C. State kicker transferring to Minnesota

Chris Hawthorne, the place-kicker from Leesville Road High School who started one game for N.C. State last season, said Tuesday that he is transferring to Minnesota.

Under new coach Jerry Kill, the Gophers are seeking a replacement for Eric Ellestad, who was 11-for-17 on field goal attempts as a senior last season.

Minnesota offered a scholarship, and Hawthorne visited the school last week and was impressed with the school and the facilities.

“It’s something I’m excited about,” he said.

Because Hawthorne was a walk-on at N.C. State, he does not have to sit out a year to comply with NCAA transfer regulations. He hopes to make a good impression in spring practice and fall camp and earn the starting job immediately.

Last season, Hawthorne started against Wake Forest when senior Josh Czajkowski was out with a hamstring injury. He made his lone field goal attempt, a 25-yarder, and was 5-for-5 on extra point attempts.

He declined to discuss the reasons for his departure from N.C. State. Last week, N.C. State received a commitment from Wakefield High senior Niklas Sade, who is rated the No. 3 prospect in the nation by

Hawthorne had played soccer for his entire life before trying out for a kicking position as a senior at Leesville Road. He was a quick study, and initially committed to walk on at Appalachian State before N.C. State offered him a chance to join the team.

Ken Tysiac

Marvin Austin on track for Shrine game

All-star college football game rosters can change frequently between the time players commit to participate and the actual kickoff.

But if all goes as planned, North Carolina's Marvin Austin will compete for the East team in the Jan. 22 East vs. West Shrine game in Orlando, Fla.

Kevin Best of the UNC sports information department said Tuesday that the 6-foot-3, 305-pound defensive lineman is expected to make the trip and play.

Austin, a preseason all-ACC pick, did not play during 2010. After being withheld early in the season during an NCAA investigation into illegal involvement with agents, he was dismissed from the program on Oct. 11.

Prior to the season, Austin was projected as a second-round pick in the April 28-30 NFL Draft.

Also scheduled to play in the East vs. West game are Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor and Clemson offensive lineman Chris Hairston among others from the ACC.

Slated to play in the Jan. 29 Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., are Florida State quarterback Christian Ponder and Miami wide out Len Hankerson among others from the ACC.

To date, no other players from UNC, N.C. State and Duke are listed on the postseason all-star rosters, but the list of players for the Feb. 5 NFLPA Game in San Antonio has not yet been released in full.

-- Caulton Tudor

Pack claims final spot in final AP poll

Tom O'Brien got his wish.

Following N.C. State's 23-7 defeat of West Virginia in the Champs Sports Bowl on Dec. 28, Wolfpack coach O'Brien said he hoped his team would be ranked in the final top 25.

When The Associated Press released its poll this morning, N.C. State was No. 25. It was the team's first appearance in the final poll since a No. 12 ranking in 2002.

N.C. State also is No. 25 in the final USA Today coaches' poll. The Wolfpack finished 9-4, tying the second highest win total in school history.

Strong bowl performances by some of the better teams in the ACC led to a decent showing in the final poll for the conference. The bad news for the ACC is that No. 16 Virginia Tech (11-3) - which lost 40-12 in the Orange Bowl to Stanford - is the conference's top-ranked team.

But the ACC did have four teams in the final rankings. As late as Week 11 (Nov. 7), the ACC had just one team ranked by The Associated Press.

In the final poll, Atlantic Division champion Florida State (10-4), which defeated South Carolina 26-17 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, is No. 17. Maryland (9-4), a 51-20 winner over East Carolina in the Military Bowl, was ranked No. 23.

After the Champs Sports Bowl win by N.C. State in Orlando, O'Brien almost immediately mentioned the final AP ranking as a goal, saying the team was deserving and that it would be a step forward heading into the 2011 season.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, January 10, 2011

UNC recruits, including Mallard Creek QB, enroll early

Five new North Carolina football players got a head start on their college careers on Monday.

Marquise Williams, T.J. Thorpe, Landon Turner, Travis Riley and Sylvester Williams enrolled a semester early for the Tar Heels. Williams, Thorpe, Turner and Riley are freshmen. Sylvester Williams is a junior-college transfer.

Williams, a quarterback from Charlotte, is the prize of the class. He threw for more than 3,000 yards and 45 touchdowns as a senior at Mallard Creek and rushed for more than 1,000 and 19 touchdowns. ranks him as the 12th-best quarterback prospect in the country.

Thorpe, a receiver from Durham Jordan, is considered one of the best athletes in the country and caught 55 passes for 950 yards as a senior.

Turner, from Harrisonburg, Va., is one of the country's top offensive line prospects. The guard played in the US Army All-American Bowl.

Riley rushed for 1,924 yards at Kannapolis Brown High School as a junior then injured his knee as a senior.

Sylvester Williams had two sacks and five blocked kicks at Coffeyville Community College and adds depth to a depleted defensive line.

-- J.P. Giglio

Elon announces Swepson hire

At a news conference this afternoon, Elon announced that it has hired N.C. State running backs coach Jason Swepson to be its head coach.

Swepson, 40, has coached running backs for four seasons for N.C. State. He also coached from 1999 to 2006 at Boston College under current Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien.

“He is a very bright, young offensive mind and has a great passion for the game,” O’Brien said in a statement. “He has done a great job recruiting for us. Jason has really done a good job of evaluating talent which shows when you find guys like Matt Ryan, among others, that he has signed for us in the past. I think he’ll do a great job at Elon and look forward to watching him grow as a football coach.”

Elon has been searching for a coach since Dec. 19, when Pete Lembo left the Phoenix to coach Ball State. Lembo was 35-22 in five seasons at Elon.

Swepson played running back and wide receiver at Boston College and coached consensus first-team All-America selection William Green with the Eagles.

Swepson is the seventh assistant coach to get a head coaching job out of the 21 assistants O’Brien has employed.

O'Brien is at the American Football Coaches Association convention in Dallas. He will begin a search for Swepson's replacement immediately.

Ken Tysiac

Hobby leaves Duke for Clemson

Marion Hobby, who was Duke’s assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach, is leaving the Blue Devils to coach defensive ends at Clemson, according to a Clemson news release.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney also hired Chad Morris from Tulsa to be offensive coordinator, replacing Billy Napier. The appointments will be official after routine background checks are completed this week.

Hobby has spent the last three seasons at Duke under David Cutcliffe. Hobby coached under Cutcliffe at Mississippi from 1999 to 2004, and also served as defensive line coach at Clemson in 2005.

Ken Tysiac

RB coach Swepson reportedly leaving Pack for Elon

Elon is expected to name N.C. State assistant Jason Swepson to its head coaching position in football today, according to a Burlington Times-News report.

A news conference announcing the hire is scheduled for noon today.

Swepson, 40, has coached running backs for four seasons for N.C. State. He also coached from 1999 to 2006 at Boston College under current Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien.

Swepson played running back and wide receiver at Boston College and coached consensus first-team All-America selection William Green with the Eagles.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bunting says UNC needs to 'pick it up'

In strongly worded comments, former North Carolina football coach John Bunting said in a radio interview Thursday that the athletics staff at the school needs to "pick it up" in light of the NCAA's investigation of the football program.

Since July, the NCAA has been investigating impermissible benefits and academic misconduct on the Tar Heel football team. Fourteen players missed at least one game, and seven missed the entire season. The NCAA has not announced whether there will be penalties for the school.

Bunting was fired and replaced following the 2006 season by current coach Butch Davis. On 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh, host Adam Gold asked Bunting how he felt about the situation. Bunting's reply is 5 minutes, 30 seconds into this file:

"I don’t feel good about it at all," Bunting said. "Those are things that we prided ourselves in, in the six years that I was there, and I think every other coach that’s been there has prided themselves, and every other coach in every sport has felt the same way. But it is what it is, and that’s a great cliché to use at this point in time. They’ve got to go forward.

"Hopefully they learn from all this, those people who either may have been asleep at the wheel or those who are in charge. They need to pick it up. And hopefully they’ll grow from this. I’m a big, big believer in turning bad into good. So maybe some good things can happen because of a very, very serious situation."

Bunting was asked about recent NCAA investigations in general at schools such as Ohio State, Auburn and Michigan, where the penalties have been criticized by many fans and media members as being too soft.

"I’m absolutely amazed at what the NCAA’s stance has been on all kinds of these different cases. Why investigate if you’re not going to take a hard stand on these issues? Because it’s setting a bad precedent. It’s setting a bad example for what we Americans have come to believe is true.

"Greed and doing things wrong and pushing the envelope beyond the rules to make things more successful, and that’s not the right thing to do. They’ve got to come to grips with some of this stuff and really start to quit slapping people on the wrist and make things happen."

Ken Tysiac