In the wake of a court ruling that required UNC-Chapel Hill to release public records involving the school's football program, university officials faced questions Thursday not about sports agents or academic misconduct but about hundreds of parking tickets racked up by a handful of Tar Heels football players over 3 1/2 years.
A review of the records released Thursday shows that fewer than 12 football players tallied 395 parking violations from March 2007 through August 2010, when The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer first sought the documents as it began reporting on the high-profile NCAA probe then under way.
The university refused that and other requests, and it led to a lawsuit by a consortium of media outlets.
The main thrust of the lawsuit contends that the university should release documents about the NCAA investigation; but a part of it was a request for the parking tickets incurred by some of the players who were part of the agent probe.
The university has said that it has determined nothing improper related to ownership of the vehicles that players were driving - a problem that has cropped up at some schools nationwide.
The documents released Thursday state that the tickets led to fines totaling $13,125; the university said only 30 of those remain unpaid, but it did not specify the dollar amount still owed for those outstanding tickets.
Separately, a university Department of Public Safety database indicates that unpaid fines total $2,035 for citations issued to a range of vehicles that the university linked to the football players. That amount includes violations that occurred since last August.
Chancellor Holden Thorp was not available for comment; UNC athletics director Dick Baddour was traveling and not available for comment.
The university has not released what it calls an "internal investigation" conducted about the parking tickets.
In the court fight, the university had argued that even releasing a vehicle tag or make of a car would allow the media to identify the player who received a ticket. The university argued that a citation was part of each student's "educational" record.
The judge ruled otherwise and was upheld by the Court of Appeals.
UNC leaders did not match names of any players who received the tickets, saying the citations were issued to a vehicle - not a person.
Still, according to records and interviews, the parking scofflaws included:
Greg Little, a former wide receiver who was one of two players ruled permanently ineligible last season for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules, appears to have been responsible for 93 tickets and still owes $125.
Ryan Houston, a tailback who redshirted last season, has 74 tickets. He apparently owes $740.
Marvin Austin, a defensive tackle who was dismissed from the team last season, has 68 tickets.
Linebacker Bruce Carter had 10 tickets. He has since received more and owes $700.
Students must pay their tickets, or arrange a payment plan, in order to register for classes; UNC said tickets were not forgiven for football players.
"They were treated like every other student," the school said in a prepared document.
Because of the nature of the media's request, it is not known how many tickets the full football team received. UNC officials said that parking officials issued 47,092 tickets in the most recent fiscal year.
The 11 players whose records were requested in August 2010 were Little, Carter, Charles Brown, Kendric Burney, Houston, Dwight Jones, Donte Paige-Moss, Robert Quinn, Kevin Reddick, Johnny White and Deunta Williams. Austin's records were subsequently sought. Not all 11 were ticketed, the school said.
Williams said the numbers and fines were not surprising. He said parking permits were difficult to come by and that some players were indifferent to the parking rules.
"You have to understand, for some players, they thought they're going to the NFL and they didn't care about the parking tickets," said Williams.
Records indicate he had 17 tickets. He says he's paid them.
No valid permit
The documents indicate a range of violations. By far, the most common was issued for not having a valid parking permit. Team members also were cited for parking in spaces across campus that are reserved for others. They blocked fire lanes, travel lanes and trash bins.
Many of the violations took place near the stadium.
But records show Little and Austin also were cited a combined four times for parking in handicapped spaces.
Both also had their cars towed or booted.
Neither could be reached for comment. Both were drafted into the NFL this spring.
It appears that Houston once was ticketed for parking a black Land Rover in the wrong place on Aug. 30, 2008, near the football stadium in a temporary athletics spot. The team was playing McNeese State at the time.
The ticket-writer's comment on the citation says only, "UNC FOOTBALL GAME."
Staff researcher David Raynor and staff writer J.P. Giglio contributed to this report.
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