North Carolina ruled ineligible for a bowl next season and must forfeit 15 scholarships
[CORRECTION: Yahoo! Sports initially stated in this report that former North Carolina wide receiver Hakeem Nicks had been disassociated by the university as part of NCAA sanctions released on Monday, March 12. That report was incorrect. While Nicks was found by UNC to have provided $3,300 in improper benefits to North Carolina players, he has not been disassociated from the program. Letters of disassociation were sent to the following individuals: former player Chris Hawkins, tutor Jennifer Wiley and jeweler A.J. Machado. We apologize for the error.]
The NCAA Committee on Infractions announced Monday the University of North Carolina failed to monitor its football program and will not be bowl eligible following the 2012 season. UNC also will have to forfeit 15 scholarships over the next three seasons.
Former assistant coach John Blake was also hit with a three-year “show cause” no-recruiting penalty as part of sanctions resulting from a 16-month NCAA investigation into the Tar Heels football program spanning 2010 and 2011. Blake’s censure means he will be banned from all recruiting activities in college football for three years unless a future employer argues successfully that he should be allowed to resume those duties. North Carolina also received three years probation, a $50,000 fine and must vacate all football victories from the 2008 and 2009 seasons. Multiple individuals also must be disassociated from the program for a varying period: former player Chris Hawkins, tutor Jennifer Wiley and jeweler A.J. Machado.
[ Y! Sports report: Ex-UNC coach-agent ties probed ]
Yahoo! Sports investigative stories in August and September 2010 revealed that Blake had business and financial ties to sports agency Pro Tect Management, as well as now-deceased agent Gary Wichard. Former star defensive tackle Marvin Austin was implicated in the September report as having received improper benefits from Wichard, and Blake was forced to resign by North Carolina in September, less than one month after the first Yahoo! Sports report was published.
North Carolina ultimately held 14 players out of competition in 2010 as part of the investigation, and seven of those players were suspended for the entire season. Head coach Butch Davis, who was not implicated in the NCAA investigation, was fired by the school prior to the 2011 season.
[ Yahoo! Sports Radio: Charles Robinson on UNC’s punishment ]
“This case should serve as a cautionary tale to all institutions to vigilantly monitor the activities of those student-athletes who possess the potential to be top professional prospects,” the Committee on Infractions stated in its report. “It should also serve to warn student-athletes that if they choose to accept benefits from agents or their associates, they risk losing their eligibility for collegiate competition.”
According to a statement from the NCAA, the Committee on Infractions determined:
• University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is responsible for multiple violations, including academic fraud, impermissible agent benefits, ineligible participation and a failure to monitor its football program.
• Over the course of three seasons, six football student-athletes competed while ineligible as a result of these violations, and multiple student-athletes received impermissible benefits totaling more than $31,000.
• While employed by the university, a former assistant football coach [John Blake] was compensated by a sports agent [Gary Wichard] for the access he provided to student-athletes and failed to disclose the income to the university. The former assistant coach and a former tutor [Wiley] both committed unethical conduct and failed to cooperate with the investigation.
[ Y! Sports investigation: Money trail ties agent, ex-UNC coach ]
The 15 scholarship losses over three seasons is a stiffer sanction than the nine scholarships docked from Ohio State in December, after the Buckeyes were embroiled in an extra-benefits scandal and concealment that ultimately cost coach Jim Tressel his job. Ohio State also received a bowl ban for one year (2012), as well as a five-year show cause penalty for Tressel.
The penalties are also more severe than those self-imposed by the Tar Heels in September, which included two years of probation, a reduction of three scholarships in each of the next three seasons, vacating all wins in 2008 and 2009, and a $50,000 fine. However, the school chose not to self-impose a bowl ban following the 2011 season, playing Missouri in the Independence Bowl and thus leaving any postseason sanctions to the NCAA. Rather than accept North Carolina’s penalties, the Committee on Infractions opted to increase them. But multiple sources told Yahoo! Sports the severity of the association’s response was mitigated by the school’s cooperation during the probe.
[ Y! Sports: John Blake recommended agent to player ]
Contact Yahoo! Sports investigative reporter Charles Robinson at WindyCityScribe@yahoo.com.
Other investigation coverage by Yahoo! Sports:
• Sources: Syracuse basketball program repeatedly violated internal drug policy
• Sources: Auburn guard Varez Ward at center of federal point-shaving investigation
• Miami booster spells out illicit benefits to players
• Ohio State coach Jim Tressel knew of players’ violations