Tuesday, June 7, 2011

UNC receives formal notice of NCAA inquiry

North Carolina has received a formal notice of inquiry from the NCAA regarding the ongoing investigation of the school’s athletics program.

The letter states that the NCAA enforcement staff intends to complete the investigation this month.

Signed by vice president of enforcement Julie Roe Lach, the letter says the possible violations primarily involve the football program, but says new information often is developed during an investigation that leads to expanded inquiries.

Dated June 7, the letter was delivered overnight to UNC chancellor Holden Thorp. The university released the letter to the media.

Since last June, the NCAA has been investigating impermissible benefits and academic misconduct in the UNC athletics program. Fourteen players missed at least one game and seven missed the entire season in 2010 as a result of the investigation.

“The notice of inquiry is a formal notification from the NCAA that they have been reviewing our football program,” North Carolina athletics director Dick Baddour said in a statement released by the school. “We have been working with the NCAA and cooperating with them on this investigation. We are committed to the process and will continue to cooperate.”

A letter of inquiry is largely a procedural step for the NCAA that now often is sent to schools near the end of an investigation rather than at the beginning. In UNC’s case, NCAA officials contacted the school by telephone on June 21, 2010 and first conducted on-campus interviews of football players on July 12.

The NCAA’s process for informing schools of actual infractions involves a notice of allegation that describes what the enforcement staff is alleging. The school has 90 days to respond to a letter of allegation, and the Committee on Infractions rules on whether violations occurred and hands out penalties.

A year ago, the NCAA’s investigation of North Carolina began with word that players had received impermissible benefits on trips to Miami, Washington, D.C., and California. Associate head coach John Blake resigned Sept. 5 as reports of his relationship with the late sports agent Gary Wichard emerged.

On Aug.26, UNC announced that the investigation had expanded to include suspicions of academic misconduct related to the work of a former university tutor. The tutor, later identified as Jennifer Wiley, also had worked for Tar Heel head coach Butch Davis.

In the fall, UNC officials sent letters to Wiley and a former player, Chris Hawkins, disassociating them from the program for their participation in alleged violations of NCAA rules.

Davis has said he was unaware of the violations when they were occurring, and UNC administrators have supported him. Baddour has said repeatedly that UNC officials have done their best to cooperate with NCAA investigators, who have made multiple trips to campus.

Ken Tysiac

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Baddour 'won't speculate' on NCAA's plans

University of North Carolina athletics director Dick Baddour said Saturday that he would not respond to an Internet report citing unnamed sources that said the NCAA has informed school officials that a notice of allegation regarding the school’s football program will arrive on or around June 10.
Since last June, the NCAA has been investigating improper benefits and academic misconduct on the part of UNC football players.

“I’m committed to this process,” Baddour said Saturday. “To me, this process means that we, I, won’t speculate and I won’t respond to leaks. And when we have facts I’ll release that to the public and to all the media at the same time.”

Citing multiple unnamed sources, Inside Carolina reported that UNC expects the notice of allegations to highlight nine infractions, including failure to monitor violations regarding former associate head coach John Blake, former tutor Jennifer Wiley, and former player Chris Hawkins.

Inside Carolina wrote that North Carolina is expected to avoid a lack of institutional control charge. Baddour wouldn’t comment on any details.

“When we have facts, when we have something to report on anything dealing with the investigation, we’ll let the public know,” he said.

A school has 90 days to respond to an NCAA notice of allegation. Football team spokesman Kevin Best also declined to comment on the report.

“We don’t know when we’re going to receive any documentation from the NCAA,” Best said.

Fourteen players missed at least one game and seven missed the entire season in 2010 in relation to the NCAA’s investigation. Blake resigned after his ties to the late sports agent Gary Wichard were disclosed in media reports, and the school sent disassociation letters to Wiley and Hawkins for providing impermissible benefits.

But the NCAA has yet to provide notice on what sanctions, if any, the UNC football program might face.

Ken Tysiac