Even if suspended, UNC players might travel to LSU game

Any suspended players would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

Staff WriterAugust 30, 2010 

Depending on whose rules were broken, North Carolina football players could wind up in uniform Saturday against LSU in Atlanta, even if they are suspended for the game.

If an athlete is found to have broken a school rule, UNC could allow him to travel with the team and wear his uniform on the sideline.

But if any Tar Heel is found to have broken NCAA rules, he would not be allowed to dress for the game and likely wouldn't be on the sideline at all.

UNC is currently in the midst of two investigations. While the NCAA continues to probe whether there was improper contact between UNC football players and agents, a university investigative team is also looking into whether a former tutor - who was employed by both the school and head football coach Butch Davis - gave inappropriate help to players on written assignments for class.

Depending on how deep the inquiries have gone, players could be tagged for breaking NCAA rules, school rules or both.

If a player is ineligible for competition per NCAA guidelines, the school cannot pay for any travel expenses, UNC senior associate athletic director Larry Gallo explained via e-mail Sunday. If the player travels on his own dime, the NCAA allows him to be on the sideline at the school's discretion, but not in uniform.

However, if a player is suspended for breaking a school rule, but remains eligible for competition per NCAA guidelines, he can travel with the team and can be in uniform, if the school permits.

The institution makes those sideline/uniform decisions on an individual, case-by-case basis, Gallo wrote.

Last season, UNC typically had its football travel roster for Saturday games ready by Thursday. The 18th-ranked Tar Heels will leave Friday for their season-opener at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic; game time Saturday is 8 p.m.

It is unclear if, or how many, players might be suspended. But during the news conference to announce the school's academic probe Thursday, athletic director Dick Baddour said the school's investigation likely will extend past the start of the season - and that decisions about who will or won't play could be made on game day.

The ACC allows only 72 players - whether they are redshirting, injured or suspended - to travel to away league games.

However, there is no limit for nonconference games, such as Saturday's showdown with the Tigers.

UNC's travel party for nonconference games usually includes 72-75 players. But Gallo wrote that because No. 21 LSU is a special game, UNC might travel with more than 75, although he didn't know the exact number as of Sunday.

robbi.pickeral@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8944

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