CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina will open the college football season in eight days.
Which players will get to take the field for the Tar Heels next Saturday against No. 21 Louisiana State is unclear after Thursday's admission by chancellor Holden Thorp, athletic director Dick Baddour and coach Butch Davis that the school is investigating possible academic misconduct by an unspecified number of players.
Baddour said because it is part of an ongoing NCAA investigation he would not identify the number of players involved or their names.
"We are really early in this process, and we need time to do our due diligence," Baddour said.
But UNC is running out of time before its nationally televised opener against LSU in Atlanta.
The Tar Heels open Davis' fourth season ranked No. 18 in The Associated Press' preseason Top 25 because of its18 returning starters and projected NFL prospects - as many as seven starters on defense.
The UNC coaching staff already had begun preparations for LSU as if senior stars Marvin Austin and Greg Little, who are involved in a separate NCAA investigation for possible improper contact with a sports agent, would not be available.
Austin, a second-team All-ACC defensive tackle last season, and Little, who had a team-high 62 catches at wide receiver in 2009, have been working with the second team since training camp began on Aug. 6. Davis said he made unspecified adjustments to the depth chart on Monday.
"Before the start of training camp, I made a statement that there would come a point in time that we would have to prepare with the players that we assumed fully would be able to compete and play in this game, and that's what we've done," Davis said.
It's unclear whether the players involved in the academic investigation will travel to Atlanta or dress for the LSU game.
Baddour said any personnel decisions will be made by UNC if the school does not receive a resolution from the NCAA, which started its initial investigation at UNC on July 12.
"We're working as hard as we can with the NCAA to bring those things into resolution," Baddour said.
Davis said the coaching staff will do its best to prepare the team for the opener and focus on the season.
"Our coaching staff has an obligation to every player on this team, to give them our full and total devotion to prepare them for this football season," Davis said. "To be as focused as the first game, as well as the remaining games."
Staff writer Robbi Pickeral contributed to this report.
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