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Tar Heels No More: Little, Quinn Ruled Ineligible by NCAA, Austin Dismissed From Team

We’ve all been waiting for the NCAA’s hammer of judgement (no, seriously, Mark Emmert has one in his office - he’s like Thor) to fall on UNC for their various infractions, wondering which players would never don a Tar Heel uniform again. After yesterday’s news, it appears the slim hopes of Greg Little, Robert Quinn and Marvin Austin ever returning are now completely gone:

University of North Carolina football student-athletes Greg Little and Robert Quinn are permanently ineligible, according to a decision today by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff. The university declared both student-athletes ineligible for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules. According to the facts submitted by the university, the total value of the benefits is approximately $4,952 for Little and $5,642 for Quinn.

Little accepted diamond earrings, as well as travel accommodations for the Bahamas, Washington D.C. and two trips to Miami, among other benefits. Quinn accepted two black diamond watches, a pair of matching earrings and travel accommodations for a trip to Miami, among other benefits.

Based upon information gathered by the institution and the NCAA Agent, Gambling and Amateurism staff during its joint investigation, unethical conduct charges were found against both student-athletes for providing false and misleading information. According to the facts submitted by the university, each student-athlete was not truthful during three separate interviews with university and NCAA enforcement staff members. Further, Little and Quinn only provided more accurate information when presented with evidence that was contrary to their assertions.

UNC also released a separate statement indicating Marvin Austin has been dismissed from the team, also related to the NCAA investigations. The most alarming part of these statements is probably the unfortunate admission that these kids not only made some bad decisions in terms of obvious violations by receiving gifts, they tried to lie to investigators until “presented with evidence contrary to their assertions.”

So, Austin, Little and Quinn are all NFL-bound. Before the season, all three were projected as possible first-round picks, and talent alone may still be enough to keep Austin and Quinn pegged that high despite their indiscretions. It will be interesting to keep an eye on what sort of association they each still retain with UNC moving forward; Dick Baddour’s official statement of course still maintains that as part of the Carolina family the University will still support and encourage the young men, but how comfortable will they feel acknowledging their association with the University they brought an NCAA investigation (and probably some forthcoming sanctions) to? On the one hand, it’s always good for reputation and recruiting purposes to have high-level draft picks come out of your program. But will Butch Davis and Baddour still be willing to point at those guys when their name is called on draft day and say, “Those are my guys,” or does Carolina essentially cut ties with them? It’ll be an interesting sub-plot to keep an eye on in the NFL offseason.

As far as the actual remaining football UNC has left to play, it certainly doesn’t do any favors for a D-line that was struggling to put pressure on opposing QBs, but hopefully there may still be some good news in store regarding the seven players still being held out in relation to the academic probe, as ESPN’s Joe Schad is reporting is the case with all the remaining athletes in question.

For those who think the dismissal of the athletes amounts to the worst of what UNC will experience, think again. Dr. Saturday paints a fairly bleak picture for the NCAA’s next move in regards to UNC:

Meanwhile, North Carolina is left to pick up the pieces, go to extreme lengths to demonstrate its cooperation with the NCAA and cower in fear of the hammer that’s likely coming when three separate strands of malfeasance – multiple athletes accepting improper benefits, widespread academic fraud and an assistant coach allegeldy maintaining a wildly improper financial relationship with an agent – are finally unraveled. In the long run, bidding a premature farewell to a handful of good players could be the least of the Heels’ problems.

There’s the mention of that hammer again. (*Gulp*)