Friday, February 18, 2011

Ramsay's mom provides example for parents

For four months, Sharon Lee has been consumed with clearing her son’s name.

She is the mother of University of North Carolina fullback Devon Ramsay, who learned Thursday that the NCAA had rescinded the permanent ban it placed upon him in November.

“I don’t think anyone has been able to have a conversation with me that this wasn’t a part of it,” Lee said late Thursday night. “I was the person you didn’t want to invite to your holiday party.”

Ramsay played in the first four games of the 2010 season, but missed the last nine after officials found his e-mail exchange with tutor Jennifer Wiley regarding a three-page sociology paper in November of 2008.

The NCAA ruled him permanently ineligible. But all along, Lee said her son was being punished simply for turning to a tutor whose job was to assist athletes with their work.

“There was so much substance behind him, I never felt it wouldn’t come out positive,” she said. “It was just, how long will this take?”

Lee said her son, too, was confident when UNC appealed the NCAA’s decision. But she was afraid he was being na├»ve and wanted to do everything she could to ensure the outcome she thought was proper.

She met with UNC officials, who she deemed extremely helpful. She tried to get through to the NCAA, but couldn’t discover a mechanism to do so. She called The News & Observer and asked to speak with a reporter.

At a Chapel Hill coffee shop on a Sunday morning in November, Lee explained her concerns, choking back tears a couple times before departing on her long drive home to New Jersey.

Lee admitted that she has concerns about football as the results of more research on concussions because available. But she knows her son loves the sport.

“Football has been so much a part of who he is,” she said Thursday.

She had another concern, too, which was far more important in the long term than whether Ramsay would ever block a linebacker or score a touchdown.

Being banned by the NCAA for life because of an academic situation carries a negative connotation. It’s not difficult to imagine employers in the future shunning Ramsay if it was their impression that he cheated in college.

Ramsay shouldn’t have to worry about that anymore. After reading about Ramsay in the newspaper, Robert Orr got in touch with Lee.

Orr is a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice and the executive director and senior counsel of the North Carolina Institute for Constitutional Law.

He asked for the reinstatement hearing scheduled for December to be canceled because the hearing presumed that Ramsay had committed an NCAA violation. Instead, he asked the NCAA to take a closer look at whether Ramsay had violated NCAA rules to begin with.

After a second look, the NCAA agreed that no violation had occurred. Ramsay was cleared and reinstated to return to the team for his senior year. It happened so suddenly that his mother didn’t know what to do.

She compared it to being hit by a lightning bolt. Ramsay’s problems had vanished as suddenly as they had appeared.

“It’s kind of like being in a hailstorm,” she said. “It starts. It does its damage. And then it goes away.”

Orr said there may be a lesson for parents in what Lee did. She believed in her son and fought to get him cleared.

She was confident enough that he had done nothing wrong that she sent the newspaper copies of e-mail exchange between Ramsay and Wiley. Although Wiley did suggest some significant changes, the e-mails showed that Ramsay understood the material and knows how to write a paper, as Lee had said earlier.

When it was over Thursday night, Lee was asked what she was going to do next. She had a lot of congratulatory phone calls to return. But she wanted to build a fire in her fireplace and then sit.

It has been a cold winter, and this weary mother finally could relax and feel some warmth.

Ken Tysiac

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Additional info helps NCAA clear Ramsay

University of North Carolina fullback Devon Ramsay’s mother, Sharon Lee, promised in November that she would fight to get her son’s eligibility restored.

Three months later, UNC announced Thursday that based on new information provided by UNC, the NCAA ruled that Ramsay did not violate NCAA rules. A rising senior from Red Bank, N.J., Ramsay has been cleared to return to the team and has one season of eligibility remaining.

On Nov. 15, UNC had announced that Ramsay had been declared permanently ineligible – banned for life – after it was determined he committed a violation in the NCAA’s investigation into impermissible benefits and academic misconduct in the UNC football program.

UNC athletic director Dick Baddour said Thursday evening that he was delighted with the new ruling.

“He has been through a lot, and he’ a first-class student-athlete,” Baddour said in a telephone interview. “He has done very well in the classroom and he can make a contribution to the program.”

Ramsay played the first four games of the 2010 season but was held out for the rest of the season after the discovery of an e-mail exchange with tutor Jennifer Wiley suggesting changes to a three-page paper for a sociology class in November of 2008.

But Lee was determined that Ramsay hadn’t committed a violation. She voiced her frustration to school officials and tried to contact the NCAA with her concerns. UNC appealed Ramsay’s case, and Lee provided copies of the e-mail exchange to The Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer, saying the NCAA’s penalty was cruel and excessive.

Robert Orr, a former North Carolina Supreme Court justice and the executive director and senior counsel for the North Carolina Institute of Constitutional Law, took up Ramsay’s case. He, too, was convinced Ramsay hadn’t violated an NCAA rule.

Orr asked for a postponement of the original appeal, which was scheduled for December, because in order to take part in the appeal Ramsay would have had to admit he had violated a rule. Orr instead wanted to produce new evidence that showed Ramsay hadn’t committed a violation.

Baddour said UNC officials appreciate the time and attention given to the case by the NCAA staff.
As a result of the investigation, 14 Tar Heel players missed at least one game, and seven missed the entire season.

Ken Tysiac

Duke football leads ACC in the classroom

Although Duke finished 3-9 on the football field last season, the Blue Devils were No. 1 in the ACC in the classroom by a wide margin, according to the All-ACC Academic awards announced this morning.

Duke led the conference with 13 All-ACC Academic selections. Clemson was next with six, and Virginia Tech had five.

To be eligible, athletes needed to have at least a 3.00 grade-point average for the past semester and to have maintained at least a 3.00 GPA throughout their college career.

North Carolina had four All-ACC Academic selections - fullback Curtis Byrd, offensive tackle James Hurst, tight end Zack Pianalto and offensive tackle Michael Ingersoll. N.C. State had one selection - quarterback Russell Wilson.

Duke's 13 selections were: linebacker Kelby Brown, cornerback Lee Butler, cornerback Russ Cockrell, defensive back Matt Daniels, offensive guard Dave Harding, tight end Cooper Helfet, offensive tackle Kyle Hill, offensive guard Brian Moore, quarterback Sean Renfree, cornerback Chris Rwabukamba, kicker Will Snyderwine, offensive tackle Perry Simmons and wide receiver Donovan Varner.

Wake Forest's three selections were offensive guard Michael Hoag, punter Shane Popham and offensive tackle Doug Weaver.

Boston College offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo and Maryland kicker/punter Travis Baltz became the 12th and 13th four-time All-ACC Academic selections in the 57-year history of the award.

Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech and Maryland each had four selections, Miami had three, and Virginia had one.

Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Swofford: Charlotte feels like home for ACC title game

RALEIGH – ACC commissioner John Swofford today called last season’s ACC football championship game a “huge success,” and added, “I think we’ve probably found a home in Charlotte.”

“It’s hard to say that after one year because we want to see a progression of successes before you call a place a home,’’ Swofford said while speaking to the Raleigh Sports Club. “But the fact that Charlotte is within 300 miles of eight of our schools is a real plus, because it enhances the fact that you’re going to have at least one fan base that can drive in and out to the game. And Charlotte sold a little over 30,000 tickets before we knew which teams were going to be in the game. That’s not quite where we want or need for it to be, but it’s a great start.”

Charlotte will host the league’s championship game after next season as well, which ends a two-year contract. “We’ll make a decision probably right after that game, as to whether it will stay there or we’ll do something different,’’ he said.

But so far, the prospects look good for keeping it there, after the first ACC football championship games were played in Florida.

“The way I look at is, you step back and look at the worst-case scenario,’’ Swofford said. “And by worst-case, I mean, what match-up is the toughest on the market, and how would you do in those circumstances? … The key to really finding a home is the answer to the question – assuming everything else is in place, and in Charlotte it certainly is, the stadium, the hotels, the whole atmosphere -- how many tickets do you sell locally, before the teams are announced? Because that really sets the base. And the higher that can be, the better. And 30,000 the first year is pretty good. We would like for it to be more, and I think it will be – particularly if we stay there a few years.”

-- Robbi Pickeral

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

N.C. State hires RB coach, shifts staff

Everette Sands will leave The Citadel to coach running backs at N.C. State, coach Tom O’Brien announced this afternoon.

Sands has spent the past six years coaching running backs at The Citadel and replaces Jason Swepson, who left N.C. State to become Elon’s head coach.

“He’s a winner, a great educator, a great communicator and he will do an outstanding job coaching our running backs,” O’Brien said in a statement.

O’Brien also announced that assistants Jim Bridge and Don Horton will swap positions. Horton has been coaching the offensive line and will direct the tight ends.

Bridge will take over the offensive line.

“With Jason’s departure and Everette’s arrival, we decided it was time to move some folks around and give our offensive staff a different look,” O’Brien stated. “After eight years with the same offensive staff, this was a good time to do that. We are looking forward to this new structure and putting together some new concepts and coming up with new ideas.”

Sands was a four-time All-Southern Conference selection as a running back and ranks second in The Citadel history in career rushing yards (3,926) and points (204). He served as team captain in 1993.

He has been an assistant coach at Elon (1996 to 1998), and Ohio University (2001 to 2001) in addition to serving two stints totaling eight years on The Citadel’s staff.

Ken Tysiac

Monday, February 14, 2011

ACC to release football schedule at 2 p.m.

The ACC will release its 2011 football schedule at 2 p.m., the league has announced. We'll post it here as soon as it is available.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lawyer still working to clear UNC's Ramsay

The lawyer for UNC fullback Devon Ramsay said Thursday that he is continuing to work with the University of North Carolina and the NCAA to reverse the determination that the Tar Heels football player violated NCAA rules.

“We’re convinced that Devon has not committed any violation,” said former N.C. Supreme Court justice Robert Orr, who represents Ramsay.

Ramsay played in the first four games of his junior season last fall before UNC officials discovered his correspondence with a university tutor during an NCAA investigation of impermissible benefits and academic misconduct in the school’s football program.

He was withheld from the team’s remaining nine games and was declared permanently ineligible by the NCAA on Nov. 15. UNC announced that it would appeal the ruling, but the appeal originally scheduled for Dec. 16 was postponed.

Orr said a reinstatement appeal merely deals with the penalty associated with an NCAA violation and presumes that a violation has taken place. Orr said he is convinced that Ramsay hasn’t committed a violation.

“What we’ve had to do is back away from that penalty phase and try to address everything surrounding the violation question,” Orr said.

In November, Ramsay’s mother, Sharon Lee, told The Charlotte Observer and The News & Observer that Ramsay’s involvement in the case stems from alterations that tutor Jennifer Wiley suggested on a three-page sociology paper in an e-mail exchange with Ramsay in November of 2008.

The timetable for a resolution to Ramsay’s case with the NCAA is uncertain.
On Wednesday, UNC announced that another football player, defensive end Michael McAdoo, lost his reinstatement appeal with the NCAA. McAdoo also had been declared ineligible Nov. 15; his appeal was heard in December.

Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tudor: N.C. schools have small Super Bowl stake

North Carolina's college programs came close to having no representation on the rosters of Super Bowl contenders Green Bay and Pittsburgh.

If not for Steelers long snapper Greg Warren (UNC) and Packers rookie defensive lineman C.J. Wilson (ECU), the state would be O-for-Dallas in Sunday's game.

The ACC does have a number of former players on the Steelers roster -- Georgia Tech's Jonathan Dwyer (RB) and Keyaron Fox (LB), Clemson's Nick Eason (DE), Virginia's Heath Miller (TE) and James Farrior (LB), Florida State's Bryant McFadden (CB) and Lawrence Timmons (FS) and Virgiia Tech's Jason Worilds (LB). Offensive lineman Kyle Jolly of UNC is on the Pittsburgh practice squad.

The Packers have nose tackle B.J. Raji of Boston College and cornerback Sam Shields of Miami.

In addition to Wilson, ECU's Jay Ross is an offensive lineman on the Green Bay practice squad.

Only one ACC product has ever been the outright Super Bowl MVP -- safety Dexter Jackson (FSU) for the Tampa Bay Bucs in 2003.

Dallas defensive lineman Randy White (Maryland) did share the award with teammate Harvey Martin in 1978.

Former Florida State wide out Fred Bilentnikoff of Oakland won in 1977, but Florida State had not yet joined the ACC and Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, the 2001 MVP, played at Miami before the Hurricanes joined the ACC.

-- Caulton Tudor