Media groups push again for UNC football program records

NCAA investigation is over, but media continue quest for information

ablythe@newsobserver.comMarch 23, 2012 

— The News & Observer, Charlotte Observer and other media organizations continue to seek records related to the NCAA investigation of the UNC-Chapel Hill football program.

In a court document filed Thursday in Orange County Superior Court, lawyers representing the media organizations asked a judge to rule on whether written questions sent from the university’s athletic compliance office to NCAA officials are subject to the state’s public records law.

A hearing was not immediately set.

The media organizations began a quest in October 2010 for public documents related to the two-pronged NCAA investigation that resulted in the recent infractions found within the football program.

Though the university turned over some records as a result of the suit, other information has been withheld, including personal phone records of Butch Davis, the former Tar Heel coach fired amid the investigation.

University officials have maintained that many of the records being sought are private, citing federal student privacy protection laws. The N&O and other plaintiffs believe these records are public under North Carolina law, which states that records, documents and other information generated by state agencies and institutions such as UNC-CH should be, with limited exceptions, made public.

The latest request is part of an ongoing suit filed in October 2010 by two McClatchy newspapers that joined forces with the DTH Media Corp., which publishes the UNC-CH student newspaper The Daily Tar Heel; News 14 Carolina, a cable TV station operated by Time Warner Entertainment-Advance/Newhouse Partnership; WTVD Television; Capitol Broadcasting; the Associated Press; and Media General Operations.

The suit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, names Chancellor Holden Thorp, former UNC-CH Athletics Director Richard Baddour, Davis and Jeff McCracken, head of the UNC-CH public safety department.

NCAA investigators began investigating the UNC-CH football program in summer 2010. Penalties were issued earlier this month

UNC-CH’s football team will serve a postseason ban in 2012, and first-year head coach Larry Fedora will have to make do with five fewer scholarships in each of the next three seasons. During the same time span, UNC-CH will remain on probation, and anything that runs afoul of NCAA rules during that time would be subject to harsher penalties.

Blythe: 919-836-4948

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