UNC legal bills for NCAA probe top $467,000

acurliss@newsobserver.comJuly 13, 2012 

UNC-Chapel Hill’s bills for extra legal help have topped $467,000 because of the scandal that erupted within its football team in 2010, spread to academic areas and resulted in NCAA sanctions four months ago.

A university spokeswoman said in an email message Thursday that no money from taxpayers has been used toward the lawyer fees, which are from two law firms that specialize in advising universities through NCAA crises.

Karen Moon, director of university news services, wrote that the athletics department and the university’s foundation are covering the costs.

“No state-appropriated funds were involved,” Moon wrote. “Funds were provided by the UNC-CH Foundation Inc. and the Department of Athletics.”

The outside legal fees totaled $467,406, she wrote.

Of that total, about $219,000 was paid from foundation gifts that were made without restrictions on how the money could be used. The other $248,000 was paid from the operating budget of the athletics department, which gets money from a variety of sources, including television contracts.

No money came from the Rams Club, the booster group that has its own foundation that funds scholarships and other athletics department needs.

The legal work covered a time period from June 2010, when the NCAA probe began, through the university’s appearance at an NCAA infractions committee in October 2011.

The university released partial billings Wednesday to a media coalition that includes The Raleigh News & Observer and The Charlotte Observer. They showed fees of almost $67,000 in the first three months of the NCAA probe.

The billings include lawyer fees, travel and copying costs, and long-distance telephone charges. But they were also heavily edited to delete information about what services were provided to the university.

The university has used two firms: Bond, Schoeneck & King of Overland Park, Kan., and Lightfoot, Franklin & White of Birmingham, Ala.

Most of the work by the Kansas firm was handled by lawyer Rick Evrard, a former NCAA investigator.

William King was the main lawyer working for UNC from the Alabama firm, which was hired by the university in January 2011.

Both law firms have been involved in high-profile NCAA matters in recent years, according to multiple news reports.

“It’s very common for universities involved in NCAA investigations to hire outside legal counsel,” Moon wrote. “They generally have direct experience in advising universities that are facing such investigations.”

According to recent news reports, the Alabama law firm was paid $600,000 by the University of Michigan, which admitted to major NCAA infractions in 2010. The firm was also paid $535,000 by the University of South Carolina related to a probe there of benefits for football players, according to the Associated Press.

The Kansas law firm billed the University of Connecticut about $675,000 for advising it through a 2010 NCAA probe focused on its men’s basketball program, according to media reports.

Curliss: 919-829-4840

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