“They’re only supposed to do their work inside the (academic) support center,” Thorp said in an interview with The News & Observer of Raleigh during a break in the trustees’ meeting. “If they’re getting together outside the academic support center, then the chances are they’re doing academic work outside the center.”
School officials announced Aug. 26 that they were looking into possible academic improprieties involving a tutor who worked for the school and for head football coach Butch Davis. Athletics director Dick Baddour said then that a player interviewed during the NCAA’s investigation into possible improprieties with sports agents shared information about the academic situation, prompting an expansion of the investigation.
A university source familiar with the investigation told The News & Observer that the problems involved inappropriate help on papers that football players were required to write for classes.
At Thursday’s trustees meeting, Baddour said the role of a tutor is well-defined, as are the rules for how a tutor may interact with players.
“They are to interact in the academic support center — working on time management, note taking, study skills. We’re not looking to establish any other kind of relationship (between the tutor and athletes),” Baddour said. “When you’re using undergraduates to tutor and mentor, it’s important that things be done in the right context.”
Before practice Thursday afternoon, Davis acknowledged that his program needs to do more to monitor what players are doing and who they’re associating with.
“After looking back at it, certainly I’m going to take the responsibility that if there are ways I can help make sure these things don’t ever happen again, we’re clearly going to (do that) in all the areas,” Davis told The Associated Press.
The status of 10 players remains in doubt for Saturday’s game at Rutgers (3:30, ESPNU), including NFL prospects Marvin Austin — who has been suspended indefinitely for breaking team rules — and Robert Quinn on defense, as well as receiver Greg Little and tailback Ryan Houston. On Wednesday, the NCAA suspended cornerback Kendric Burney for six games and safety Deunta Williams for four for receiving improper benefits tied to several trips. UNC officials have said they will appeal the suspensions.
On Wednesday night, Tyrone Burney said an association with former UNC player Chris Hawkins is the reason his son was suspended.
The elder Burney said his son took trips to Atlanta and Las Vegas with Hawkins, who the NCAA defined as a sports agent after he purchased Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green’s Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000. Green is serving a four-game NCAA suspension.
Kendric Burney met Hawkins through former Tar Heels running back Willie Parker, about five years ago, Tyrone Burney said.
“I didn’t know the NCAA considered ‘Hawk’ an agent/runner,” Tyrone Burney told The Charlotte Observer on Wednesday night. “If I did, I would have put my foot down with Kendric before any of this happened.”
Hawkins told The Observer on Wednesday night that he is not an agent and he did not pay Burney’s expenses on the trips. He called the suspension “totally wrong.”
Tyrone Burney said his son told him the trips were to have fun, not to meet with potential agents. He said his son knew about the Memorial Day trip to Miami that cost Alabama’s Marcel Dareus two games, and was attended by Austin and Little, but knew there would be agents there.
“That’s exactly the type of thing he was trying to avoid,” Burney said. “That’s the reason he did not go on the Miami trip, because he heard what was going on there.”
Hawkins, who played for UNC from 2001 to 2003, has said he met current Tar Heels players while working out in the school’s weight room. He was charged with felony cocaine trafficking and misdemeanor marijuana possession April 23, 2009, in Georgia.
Meanwhile, former UNC associate head coach John Blake has met with investigators from the N.C. Secretary of State’s office about an ongoing probe into agent related activities, The News & Observer reported Thursday.
“Coach Blake has been interviewed … and has cooperated with them in response to a subpoena,” said Blake’s lawyer, Wade Smith of Raleigh.
Smith declined to comment Wednesday on when the interview took place, what was said or how long it took.
Blake resigned after the Tar Heels’ loss to LSU in the season opener, saying he didn’t want to be a distraction.
Blake had been under scrutiny because of his ties to sports agent Gary Wichard of California. Documents indicate Blake and Wichard worked together earlier this decade when Blake was out of coaching. At least 13 players who played at schools where Blake coached have signed with Wichard, including UNC’s Kentwan Balmer.
Smith declined to comment on whether Blake received money from Wichard while Blake was coaching, calling that a “complicated” question.
The Secretary of State’s office oversees agent activity in North Carolina. State law requires agents to be registered with the state. If investigators believe there was wrongdoing, the case would be referred to a state prosecutor.
Last week, Secretary of State investigators interviewed Austin. The suspended defensive tackle is also part of an ongoing NCAA probe into questions about whether players received improper benefits from sports agents.