CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina interim football coach Everett Withers declined to say Thursday whether Tar Heels defensive lineman Quinton Coples would be punished by the team for a sign-out policy mistake that eventually led to the All-ACC player being interviewed by the NCAA.
"The sign-out sheet policy is an internal policy that we have, so anything that happens will be an internal issue in how we handle it,'' Withers said . "Quinton was cleared by the NCAA, so that issue goes away. What we do is handle anything internally in the family."
Coples said he filed a sign-out sheet in May when he left campus - a policy instituted during the spring semester to track football players' whereabouts whenever they leave campus for 24 hours or more. The team instituted the policy after UNC lost Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn and Greg Little for the entire 2010 season after it was determined they had accepted trips and improper, agent-related benefits.
Coples said Thursday that he failed, when signing out, to inform the team that he would be attending Austin's NFL draft party in Washington, D.C.
NCAA investigators returned to Chapel Hill to interview Coples after a Washington magazine posted pictures from the party on its website. "I signed out, but it was an adjustment that I had to make that I didn't make, which was to inform them that I was going to the party outside the place I was actually going,'' Coples said. " ... I told them where I was going, which I did go to, but when I made that adjustment to go to the party, I just didn't let anyone know. And that's when the whole situation came up."
The NCAA eventually told UNC that Coples did not commit any violations. "I didn't think anything was going to happen," Coples said. "I was just going to celebrate with my former teammates that had just gotten drafted. I felt like some people saw something different and tried to make the situation bigger than what it was. At the end of the day, I was cleared, and I thank God for that and we're moving on.
"That was definitely a learning experience for me."
Williams Speaks: UNC basketball coach Roy Williams addressed the football team earlier this week, and it had an impact.
"I have so much respect for him, and I believe a lot of the things he believes in - in this university and this state," Withers said. "And I felt like his message would be pertinent to our team. He told them about [how] this university is a proud university, and it's a great university to represent, and we need to represent it with class and with pride."
Briefly: Freshman Brandon Ellerbe has been cleared to practice and play by the NCAA Clearinghouse. ... Safety Jonathan Smith confirmed that the reason he was suspended last season was related to academics; he has impressed coaches during training camp. ... Former UNC running back Hunter Furr was expected to be added to ECU's roster, a Pirates spokesman said. As per NCAA transfer rules, Furr must sit out a season before he can play.
Staff writer Luke DeCock contributed to this report.
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