The university has declined for months to turn over many documents related to the investigations into academic misconduct by football players and ties between former assistant football coach John Blake and NFL agents, according to the suit.

“There is evidence here of serious violations — UNC players accepting benefits from agents and academic misconduct,” said John Drescher, executive editor of The News & Observer. “UNC has said it wants to get to the bottom of these problems in its football program. The best way to do that is to release these records.” Among the records being sought by The N & O, are: –Phone numbers from bills of telephones issued to and used by Richard Baddour, the UNC-CH athletics director; Butch Davis, the UNC head football coach; and, Blake, the former assistant UNC-CH coach and chief recruiter who resigned under fire amid the probe.

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Find Solutions for Enterprises, SMBs & Service Providers at the INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference and EXPO West, October 4-6, 2010. Los Angeles, CA.
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Find Solutions for Enterprises, SMBs & Service Providers at the INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference and EXPO West, October 4-6, 2010. Los Angeles, CA.
Find Solutions for Enterprises, SMBs & Service Providers at the INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference and EXPO West, October 4-6, 2010. Los Angeles, CA.
Find Solutions for Enterprises, SMBs & Service Providers at the INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference and EXPO West, October 4-6, 2010. Los Angeles, CA.
Find Solutions for Enterprises, SMBs & Service Providers at the INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference and EXPO West, October 4-6, 2010. Los Angeles, CA.
Find Solutions for Enterprises, SMBs & Service Providers at the INTERNET TELEPHONY Conference and EXPO West, October 4-6, 2010. Los Angeles, CA.

–Names, employment dates and salaries of all individuals employed as tutors and or mentors for UNC-CH athletes since January 2007, including any documents mentioning Jennifer Wiley, the former tutor at the center of the probe.

–Any parking tickets issued by UNC-CH to 11 players.

–Any documents or records of any investigation conducted by the university related to any misconduct by a UNC-CH football coach, any football players, any sports agents, any boosters and any academic tutors.

–And the names of individuals and organizations that provided improper benefits to any UNC football players.

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.

Chancellor Holden Thorp issued a statement late Thursday afternoon saying he was disappointed with the lawsuit.

“The University is 100 percent committed to complying with our obligations under public records laws,” Thorp said in his prepared statement. “We recognize the media’s legitimate interest in the football story, but we can’t ignore federal and state law with regard to confidential student and personnel records.” The two McClatchy newspapers 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 Thorp, Baddour, Davis and Jeff McCracken, head of the UNC-CH public safety department.

NCAA investigators have been looking at the UNC football program since this summer.

Initially the probe focused on whether players had received improper benefits from agents. But the inquiry was expanded to include possible academic violations involving a tutor.

In all, 14 players have missed some or all of the season.

Three players are no longer eligible to play in college: Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn, all projected to be selected in next spring’s NFL draft. Last week, the NCAA said that Little and Quinn had lied to its investigators and that the players took trips, jewelry and more worth a combined $10,000. The NCAA banned them from college play after receiving reports from UNC.

UNC said Austin accepted more than $10,000 in benefits and kicked him out of the program without submitting information about him to the NCAA.

This past Friday, after an earlier threat of lawsuit, UNC released heavily redacted documents that provided some insight into benefits being provided by agents to players, a practice forbidden by the NCAA. The agents, according to the documents, are accused of securing hotel rooms for players and providing wristbands that gave them access to a South Florida pool party.

Until Friday, the NCAA and UNC had declined to say who provided the benefits. UNC switched course after continued efforts by The N&O and the Observer to force their release.

In the documents, Chris Hawkins, a former UNC-CH player, was described as a “runner,” or someone who introduces players to agents. Todd Stewart, who is believed to be from Washington, D.C., was described in one of the NCAA violation letters as a prospective agent because of “self-identified ties with a financial advising firm” and as someone who booked hotel rooms for players. Also identified was Michael Katz, director of marketing and client services for Rosenhaus Sports, which has the largest number of NFL clients. Two of the NCAA violation letters said Katz provided the wristbands that granted access to a pool party. The documents did not say more about that, including specifically whether that action triggers a violation. Previous reports have shown Austin and Little at a South Florida pool party.

The newspapers were able to use a narrow, targeted search of phone records to prove frequent contact between Blake and agent Gary Wichard, and that Blake was speaking with family members of highly regarded Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and then immediately contacting Wichard.

But the school redacted almost all of the numbers on Blake’s phone records, citing student privacy, privacy of numbers of other employees’ personal phones, and privacy of the phone numbers of prospective students.

The NCAA has refused to release records on the agents, saying it doesn’t have jurisdiction over them. The N.C. Secretary of State’s office enforces a state agent-registration law, and the state agency has acknowledged opening a criminal probe that could lead to felony charges.

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