NCAA probe of UNC could last a year

The UNC chancellor says the NCAA might not finish its investigation of the football program until 2011.

Staff WriterOctober 8, 2010 

— Investigations related to individual North Carolina football players could be resolved in a matter of weeks, but the NCAA's investigation into the football program may take up to a year to complete, UNC chancellor Holden Thorp said Thursday.

Speaking to the UNC system's Board of Governors for the second straight month, Thorp also said football coach Butch Davis and his staff need to know more about what their players are doing away from the playing field.

"Coach Davis knows he has a lot of work to do," Thorp said. "It does concern me deeply that he didn't know about some of the things going on."

The NCAA and the university are looking into whether football players had improper contact with sports agents and into possible academic misconduct.

Thorp said the academic investigation is now in the hands of the student judicial system, adding that the honor court's role in the process could be finished in a matter of weeks. Thorp and athletic director Dick Baddour said Thursday there is no indication that problems stretch further than the football program, nor do the academic issues appear more widespread than one tutor "that went astray." But Baddour said the school is still investigating.

UNC officials say a tutor who had worked for both the Davis family and with football players through UNC's academic support program is at the root of the academics issue.

University officials declined to renew the tutor's contract in July 2009 after she appeared to foster friendships with football players in violation of guidelines set out for tutors. She continued to work for Davis until last spring.

"Even after she was separated, she continued to have contact with our players, which is not allowed," Thorp said Thursday.

Asked if it was appropriate for Davis to use a tutor who also worked with his players, Thorp said, "No."

Thorp said the overall investigation was developing slowly.

"The facts keep changing, and we're still working to get to them," he said.

Thorp again pledged that the university will come out better on the other side of this episode, with a strengthened athletics program and academic support system.

Winston Crisp, UNC's vice chancellor for student affairs, said football players are getting no special treatment as their cases wind through the student judicial process. Each student suspected of cheating is evaluated by the student attorney general. If charged with an honor code violation, that player will get a hearing with the honor court, which has the power to dole out punishment if necessary.

"I am absolutely comfortable that these athletes are being treated the same way as other students," Crisp said.

As he has repeatedly done during the past several weeks, Thorp publicly apologized Thursday for the football problems, which he said are an unwelcome distraction.

His boss, UNC President Erskine Bowles, praised Thorp's handling of the situation, particularly his willingness to move slowly and deliberately even under increasing public demands for fast answers.

"I don't know anyone who is more disappointed or angrier. ... But he has made sure he didn't jump to any conclusions," Bowles said.

Thorp has indicated a desire to brief the UNC system governing board on the progress of the football investigation each time it meets until the matter is resolved. The board next meets in November.

eric.ferreri@newsobserver.com or 919-932-2008

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