UNC AD says PJ Hairston will play this season, but not in every game

acarter@newsobserver.comAugust 15, 2013 

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UNC's P.J. Hairston (15) checks his phone in the locker room following the Tar Heels 70-58 loss to Kansas in the NCAA tournament on Sunday March 24, 2013 at the Sprint Arena in Kansas City, Missouri.

ROBERT WILLETT — rwillett@newsobserver.com

— P..J. Hairston will play this season, but not in every game. That’s what Bubba Cunningham, the North Carolina athletics director, told a group of university faculty members during a question-and-answer session on Thursday.

Cunningham on Thursday spoke at a faculty retreat for the UNC journalism school. Andy Bechtel, an associate professor in the journalism school, posted on his Twitter account Cunningham’s answer when asked about Hairston, the Tar Heels’ junior guard and leading scorer who has been suspended indefinitely.

“Bubba Cunningham takes a PJ question,” Bechtel wrote on his Twitter account. “Will he play? Answer: ‘Yes, but not all the games.’”

That was the entirety of Cunningham’s answer, Bechtel later said during a phone interview. Cunningham’s comments are the closest UNC has come to saying anything about Hairston’s playing status for next season.

Even so, UNC athletic department spokesman Steve Kirschner said on Thursday that there has been no change in Hairston’s status, and that Cunningham’s comments represent his opinion – and not the university’s official position.

“It’s what he thinks might happen, but we’re not there yet,” Kirschner said.

Hairston was suspended after the North Carolina Highway Patrol charged him with speeding and reckless driving late last month. That followed his arrest in Durham in early June, when he was charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving without a license. Those charges were later dropped.

At the time of his arrest, Hairston was driving a rented GMC Yukon that was paid for by Haydn “Fats” Thomas, a Durham resident and convicted felon. Hairston also received a speeding ticket in May while driving another rental vehicle, a 2012 Camaro, that has been linked to Thomas.

After he played in a pro-am at the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, UNC coach Roy Williams on Wednesday declined to comment on Hairston.

“Not talking about P.J.,” Williams said. “I’ve read about it all summer, I’m tired of reading about it, tired of talking about it. If you want to talk about anything else, I’ll talk about anything.”

Cunningham, the UNC athletics director, also played in the pro-am with Williams and declined comment about Hairston. Cunningham’s brief comment on Thursday was the first time that a UNC official has definitively said that Hairston will play this season.

Hairston is facing a potentially lengthy suspension, depending on whether his use of rental cars is deemed to be an extra benefit. If the use of rental cars were an extra benefit, the NCAA could suspend him from anywhere between three and nine games – or more – depending on the monetary value of the benefit. Williams said in a statement last month that Hairston would face “serious consequences.”

Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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