Mon Jul 19 06:12am EDT
There wasn't much clarity over the weekend in the NCAA's ongoing probe of North Carolina into "Reggie Bush stuff" – dealings with agents, improper benefits, all-expenses-paid trips for potential draft picks. But the scope is expanding fast: Interviews in Chapel Hill may have involved as many as 13 players, not just two, and the sit-downs may have been months in the making, suggesting serious charges are at stake. And Sunday we learned the investigation's tentacles have already reached into the other Carolina, according to the State newspaper in Columbia:
The NCAA is investigating South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders about possible impermissible dealings with a sports agent, according to sources.
An NCAA investigator was in Columbia last week to interview Saunders, according to one of the sources.
It is believed that the investigation of Saunders is connected to the NCAA's ongoing probe of North Carolina football players and agent activity. Saunders, a senior from Durham, N.C., has several friends on UNC's team, including defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who is at the center of the UNC investigation.
Saunders personally confirmed the interview to ESPN's Joe Schad, and South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman confirmed to everyone Sunday that the chat "involved a possible rules violation in one of our programs" – i.e. not mere due diligence in the NCAA's pursuit of Saunders' friend Marvin Austin. Coach Steve Spurrier was open to the possibility that Saunders may be ineligible this fall. (And, being Steve Spurrier, got in a dig at Pete Carroll in the process.)
If you're willing to venture into really ominous, conspiratorial territory, there are vague suggestions elsewhere that the NCAA is turning over rocks at at least two other programs, suggesting a sprawling web of agents and high-profile players across the South and East Coast – maybe across the country – that may only be beginning to see the light of day. That isn't so hard to believe, even if it remains firmly in Fox Mulder territory for the time being. As of now, it seems like a targeted probe that likely threatens the eligibility of a handful of players at two schools and not much more. But the NCAA obviously isn't a shadowy, all-powerful syndicate that controls information at its whim. If its own men in black are everywhere, man, we should know about it soon enough.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.