North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour said the penalties levied by the NCAA on football players Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams are too harsh and said the University plans to appeal the rulings.
Burney must sit out four more games after missing UNC’s first two, while Williams must sit two more games before returning. Both suspensions are due to the players violating NCAA agent benefits and preferential treatment rules.
“For what was involved with these two student-athletes, what was imposed is out-of-bounds for what the circumstances were,” Baddour said.
Along with being sidelined, the two seniors must also repay money they received through improper benefits. Burney received $1,333 in benefits, including trips to California, Las Vegas and Atlanta. The majority of the costs were paid by an individual who the NCAA defines as an agent, or one who promotes or markets a student-athlete. Burney must repay $575.19 to a charity of his choice before he can compete again.
Chris Hawkins, a UNC football player from 2001-03 who has been linked to the investigation and classified as an agent, said Wednesday night that Burney stayed with former UNC football player Mahlon Carey in Atlanta.
Carey went to high school in Marietta, Ga., and played for UNC between 2002-05.
“They stayed with Mahlon Carey down in Atlanta,” said Hawkins, who added that Burney paid for the other trips with his own money.
Hawkins said he is not an agent and repeatedly said he does not understand why the NCAA classifies him as such.
“It doesn’t matter how that individual calls himself — an agent, a runner or a relative,” said Stacey Osburn, associate director of public and media relations for the NCAA. “What we look at are the activities that person does and what that person provides.”
Williams, who took two trips to California, received $1,426 in benefits and must repay $450.67 to charity. The violation occurred after Williams visited with a former UNC player who Baddour said is not Hawkins.
Hawkins said he was truthful when he spoke to NCAA investigators during the summer.
“When Baddour called me and asked me to speak for them on behalf of the Carolina guys I was like, ‘Cool, they haven’t done anything wrong,’” Hawkins said. “And they still punished the guys.”
Osburn said a time for UNC’s appeal has yet to be determined. She said the NCAA has not received the proper paperwork from the University on the appeal, but the process will begin when it does.
A committee of member schools and athletic conferences normally meets before and after the season to hear such appeals, and Osburn said arrangements must be made for such an appeal to be made in a timely manner during the season.
“It depends on the amount of time the committee needs to deliberate,” Osburn said. “It could come out the day of the call, and that’s pretty much standard. However, there are going to be cases that the committee will need more time.”
Baddour said he’s optimistic about UNC’s chances in the appeal.
“I think the case is strong,” Baddour said. “But I’m also disappointed that we’re at the stage that we are where we have to appeal.”
The University and the NCAA continue working to determine the eligibility of nine other UNC players who have yet to play this season.
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