Gray, Washington and DeShields could not be reached for comment.
After Mavunga’s release, Hatchell said in a statement that discussion about the future of the program was premature.
“There has been a lot of speculation surrounding our program in recent weeks, and that’s all that it is — speculation,” Hatchell said.
Despite Hatchell’s statement, several pundits have pointed to the NCAA investigation and the Notice of Allegations as the main culprits for why players have decided to leave the program.
“This is the period you go through ... where (the NCAA) holds a dagger over your head,” said Brian Barbour, who has blogged about UNC athletics for over nine years. “People, in a reaction to what that dagger might bring, do things like transfer or don’t commit to the school in general. And this is massive, because it’s actual penalties before you get to the penalty phase.”
Jacqueline Koss, who says she has been a colleague of Hatchell’s for over 40 years, said that UNC’s administration, perhaps with pressure from players’ parents, may have coerced Hatchell into granting the releases.
“Sylvia is far, far too successful and too intelligent to have wanted to allow that to happen,” she said.
Dan Bruton, a former assistant women’s basketball coach at San Diego Mesa College and a sports marketing professor at the University of San Diego, said he wouldn’t be surprised if other players decided to leave.
“A year ago, the upside of that team looked great, you know — young players, really good players, more players coming in — and now ... it’s certainly not what those girls signed up for,” he said.
Barbour said the effects on the program’s future recruiting classes could be alarming.
“As for what goes on in the class of 2017, the class of 2018, yeah I think those classes are pretty well toast,” he said. “Hatchell can tell recruits, she can say that she’s going to be there, but we have no way of knowing what’s going to happen to her.”