Austin’s Twitter posts offer a glimpse of his life off the field. However, it is not clear whether NCAA investigators were aware of Austin’s Twitter account before they started looking into UNC’s football program.
The News & Observer and Charlotte Observer have confirmed that Austin was interviewed as part of an investigation into possible improper contact with sports agents. Tar Heels receiver Greg Little also was interviewed by the NCAA, his father said Tuesday.
The 6-foot-3, 305-pound Austin is a space-eating defensive tackle with an outgoing personality to match his oversized frame. He’s constantly talking, both on and off the field. Austin is one of at least 25 UNC football players with online accounts with Twitter, a social media site that allows users 140 characters to express themselves. Users can also post pictures — ANCHORMANAUSTIN featured at least 100 — as well as videos.
Austin’s Twitter account was part diary, part personal message board for trash talk. Austin provided insight on everything in his life from the big (his decision to return to Chapel Hill for his senior season) to the small (his blood-pressure reading). Austin also used it as a forum to talk about trips to Washington, D.C. (his hometown) and his penchant for shopping sprees.
“Jus got to DC an (sic) I’m feeln (sic) a shopn (sic) spree . . . nobody gon (sic) be fresh as ME!!!” Austin tweeted on April 23.
In a May 8 Twitter post, ANCHORMANAUSTIN wrote, “Tables, bottles, beatiful (sic) people!!!!!! LIVE . . .”.
In the past four months, Austin posted pictures of a watch for his younger sister, a bag from an upscale sunglass store in Miami and a $143 bill from The Cheesecake Factory in Washington, D.C.
Earlier this year, between Feb. 25 and March 8 (the exact date was not available on Google), Austin lamented his lack of income.
“Im (sic) so tired of being broke . . . somebody make it rain . . . where is packman (sic) jones when u need em,” the ANCHORMANAUSTIN post said.
(“Make it rain” is a euphemism for throwing money, typically single $1 bills, at dancers in an exotic club, a maneuver made notorious by former NFL player Adam “Pacman” Jones.)
The NCAA has been cracking down on illegal agent activity since announcing the punishment of Southern California in early June after it was determined that former Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush received improper benefits from an agent.
Austin could have left for the NFL after his junior season, which featured a career-best 42 tackles and four sacks, at UNC. Given a second-round grade by the NFL’s underclassmen advisory committee, he could have entered the draft and expected to receive a signing bonus of at least $900,000.
He chose instead to return for his senior season, which is now in jeopardy if the NCAA finds he received improper benefits from an sports agent.
Austin referenced money when he announced his decision return to UNC on Twitter on Jan. 1.
“. . . yea I could go get paid but in some things it aint all about the money . . . I love carolina point blank!” he tweeted on New Year’s Day.
The school sent out an official announcement three days later that a group of talented juniors with pro potential — Austin, Little, Deunta Williams, Kendric Burney, Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant — were all returning for the 2010 season.
Kevin Best, the university spokesman for the UNC football team, declined to make Austin, or anyone from the football program, available for comment and referred all questions Tuesday to athletic director Dick Baddour.
Baddour declined to comment.
Tar Heels coach Butch Davis has not spoken publicly on the matter yet but is scheduled to make a public appearance Thursday in Durham at the Pigskin Preview, an annual luncheon that brings together area Division I football coaches to talk about the upcoming season.
The closest that anyone affiliated with UNC has come to publicly discussing the investigation in recent days occurred on the Twitter account of UNC quarterback T.J. Yates. Monday night on his account, Yates made a joking reference to the NCAA investigation of his team. Posting an update about a recent golf lesson he had, Yates ended the tweet with, “dont (sic) worry NCAA its (sic) ok we’ve got a prior relationship.”
Citing unnamed sources, ESPN has reported that NCAA investigators are trying to determine who paid the transportation and lodging costs, among other expenses, for Austin, Little, South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders and other players to attend an agent’s party in Miami’s South Beach earlier this summer.
Little and Saunders, whose father Barry Saunders is a metro columnist for The News & Observer, are both from Durham.
In a May 29 Twitter post that went up at 3:07 a.m., Austin wrote, “I live In club LIV so I get the tenant rate. bottles comin (sic) like its giveaway,” a reference to a 30,000-square-foot night club at Miami Beach and champagne bottles.
The post, however, is a direct quote from “Sweet Life,” a song by rap artist Rick Ross.
Greg Little Sr. said Tuesday that he did not know if NCAA investigators had asked his son about a Miami trip. He said his son and Austin took a spring break trip to Miami in March.
“I gave him money for all of his expenses,” Greg Little Sr. said.
Barry Saunders said Tuesday his son also was in Miami for spring break in March but added that his son did not travel with Austin and Little.
The athletic department’s policy concerning the use of Twitter and social media is that the players are “responsible for what they post, the same way as if they’d said it at a press conference,” UNC spokesman Steve Kirschner said.
Last month, three UNC basketball players — sophomores Dexter Strickland and John Henson and junior Larry Drew II — posted messages on their Twitter accounts suggesting that a Tar Heels coach told them they needed to tone down their Twitter messages because they were offending people.
“They told me I gotta watch wat I say… so I’m sry if any of my tweets offended anybody that follows me,” Strickland posted on June 1.
Austin often peppered his posts with profanity but typically tailored his good-natured comments with a humorous touch.
Many of the posts were directed at other UNC football players on Twitter, including Little and Michael McAdoo, as well as toward other college football players, including Saunders.
Little Sr. said he has warned his son, who recently disabled his Twitter account, about sharing too much information online. Little had more than 1,400 followers and posted more than 1,700 updates on his account before taking it down.
“I’ve told him that a million times. You can’t put everything you’re thinking and everything you’re doing out there,” Little Sr. said.
One of Austin’s final missives on Twitter, on July 7, was an ambiguous reference to the end of his college career.
“I freakn (sic) love chapel hill . . . I grind for that reason alone . . . its (sic) gone (sic) be a SAD day when I have to depart so imma (sic) enjoy everyday I get here!!!”