As mystifying as it still is that the process of investigating UNC is taking so long, at least the NCAA has finally handed down suspensions for two Carolina players that have been missing the last two games. Looks like CB Kendric Burney will be missing six games and S Deunta Williams has to miss four:
Burney, who received $1,333 in benefits, must miss six games and make repayment of $575.19 to a charity of his choice. Williams, who received $1,426 in benefits, must miss four games and make repayment of $450.67 to a charity of his choice. Both student-athletes already have sat out two games.
“We plan to appeal the length of the suspensions,” says Dick Baddour, North Carolina Director of Athletics. “While I respect the NCAA process, I believe the penalties to be unduly harsh given the individual circumstances in these cases.”
The university declared both student-athletes ineligible for violations of NCAA agent benefits and preferential treatment rules. According to the facts of the case submitted by the university, these benefits in part included trips to California, Atlanta and Las Vegas for Burney and two trips to California for Williams.
Well then. At least the suspensions already included the games both players have missed.
Seems as though Williams gets two games less because his trips didn’t involve anyone that the NCAA classifies as an “agent,” although to be fair Burney didn’t realize that former UNC player Chris Hawkins (who he allegedly took some of the trips with) was an agent, either. Burney’s father is understandably furious over this situation and has gone so far as to say Hawkins is the reason his son is being suspended, since Burney’s dad thought he paid for his son’s trips to Las Vegas and California.
Over at Yahoo’s Dr. Saturday, Matt Hinton pretty much sums up the situation as accurately as possible; although things are at least getting sorted out, the situation remains grim.
With defensive tackle Marvin Austin likely out for the season, we do know the Heels will go into their next ACC game, a critical visit from Clemson on Oct. 9, down at least two starters (Austin and Burney), and possibly as many as six: The fates of defensive end Robert Quinn, cornerback Charles Brown, safety Da’Norris Searcy and receiver Greg Little are still in the air. In the meantime, two games in, the ACC’s best defense in 2009 ranks dead last in the conference (and among the bottom three teams nationally) in run defense, pass efficiency defense and sacks. So far, that’s been improbably offset by the ACC’s leading passer, T.J. Yates. But the more clear it becomes that the attrition is a long-term (and, in some cases, permanent) state of affairs, the further away all that preseason optimism seems.
I actually saw some buzz on Twitter last night as some speculated that Carolina could still contend for the ACC title if they rattled off wins over the next four games in time to get Burney and Williams (and other players, potentially) back for the tougher ACC slate of Miami-FSU-VT afterwards. Whether that optimism has any grounds for reason will bear itself out as the Heels face Rutgers, ECU, Clemson and Virginia in the coming weeks. If Carolina can’t win those, there may not be much of a season left to salvage even if it gets its full roster back.