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June 21, 2011

HURT: Observations on UNC's troubles

The fact that the University of North Carolina's football program received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA on Tuesday was anything but surprising. The agent-related escapades of UNC defensive tackle Marvin Austin was - along with expansion - the story of the summer in 2010, and the fact that it has taken a year for things to reach the "official" stage only reflects a thorough investigation by the NCAA.


In scanning through the NCAA letter on the UNC website Tuesday night, a few things jumped out. A few were simply names that stood out. Brian Bosworth, the former Oklahoma linebacker, was mentioned as one of the people who had reported agent-related activity by UNC assistant football coach John Blake. Greg Sankey, the associate commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, is one of the members of the Infractions Committee who will hear the case.

Marcell Dareus' name was not mentioned anywhere, although the former University of Alabama defensive tackle probably came out of the entire agent-summer of 2010 unscathed because he was forthcoming and honest. At least one UNC student-athlete (almost certainly Austin, although the name was redacted) was cited for "providing false and misleading information," a thread that has run through all the summer's major NCAA cases, from Knoxville to Columbus to Chapel Hill.

One other observation was that, although the North Carolina issues were confined to one sport - football - it is surprising that North Carolina was charged with "failure to monitor" and not "lack of institutional control" in a case that involved an assistant football coach acting as an agent runner and a bevy of academic-fraud allegations as well. A word of caution to North Carolina fans who might see that as a reason to anticipate a less severe outcome in the penalty phase: Remember Alabama did not have a lack of institutional control charge in the Albert Means case and look what happened there. And I echo the sentiments of John Infante of bylawblog.com, who said Tuesday that it's time for "failure to monitor" and "lack of institutional control" to be merged into a single charge because a school "is either getting it done or (it's) not."

Perhaps the most notable eye-catcher came at the end of a fairly long document, though. For the first time in my experience, an NCAA Notice of Allegations included the word "Twitter."
Specifically, the NCAA requested "copies of materials posted on Twitter by student-athletes … regarding trips on which they received impermissible benefits."

It is no secret that lots of student-athletes have Twitter accounts, as do most college students. Not to name names, but plenty of University of Alabama athletes tweet, and it's no different than any other school in the country in that respect. But when the NCAA issues a Notice of Allegations that includes a request for "information … regarding the institution's efforts to monitor the social networking activity of football student-athletes," then we have entered a new realm. In addition to a linebacker coach and a tight end coach, Nick Saban will need a Facebook coach and a Twitter coach (and, given Saban's thoroughness in hiring staff members, probably even a MySpace coach).
That's facetious, of course. What is more realistic is that you will see a drastic curtailment of student-athlete Twitter activity at many schools. That won't be a happy day for reporters, which is probably another reason that you will see it happen sooner rather than later.

Cecil Hurt is sports editor of The Tuscaloosa News. He can be reached at cecil.hurt@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0225.


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