According to sources, senior Marvin Austin is at the center of the inquiry, and the NCAA was especially interested in a trip taken by the senior defensive tackle to visit former teammate Kentwan Balmer in Miami.
Austin, a potential first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft, communicated about his trip to Miami via a Twitter account. Austin’s Twitter account has since been shut down.
“They (NCAA) wanted to know who paid for his transportation, who paid for his expenses and whatever else he was doing down there,” a source said.
Balmer, now a defensive tackle with the San Francisco 49ers, played for the Tar Heels during Austin’s freshman season in 2007. Austin has consistently mentioned Balmer as a mentor and big-brother figure throughout his UNC career.
Other players whom sources said were interviewed by the NCAA include wide receiver Greg Little, linebacker Quan Sturdivant, both seniors, and junior defensive end Robert Quinn. The sources said the questioning of those players involved possible contacts with sports agents.
Those three, along with Austin, cornerback Kendric Burney, linebacker Bruce Carter and safety Deunta Williams are all considered major NFL prospects. Austin, Sturdivant, Carter and Williams are ranked by ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr., as among the best at their positions for the 2011 player draft.
One sports agent told The Observer on Friday that the status of those players has brought an influx of “runners” to Chapel Hill. Runners are people who attempt to befriend pro prospects in hopes of getting them to sign with a particular agent. In North Carolina, agents certified by the state have to list everyone who works with them, including runners.
Once source said players and others have been required by the NCAA to submit personal phone records to check which agents they had contact with.
The NCAA allows players to have contact with agents after their junior seasons. North Carolina actually hosts an event on campus for agents during the spring. But players are not allowed to accept any gifts or money, and cannot make any commitment or sign a contract with an agent. Violating those rules could result in the loss of eligibility.
A source told The Observer that the NCAA is examining bank accounts, vehicle registrations and and other documents to determine if any players received improper benefits.
The UNC coaching staff, including head coach Butch Davis, were all on vacation when the NCAA investigators came to campus.