Posted: 11:29 a.m. Wednesday, July 10, 2013
By Brian Barbour
I guess in light of Roy Williams being accosted on his daily walk, Tar Heel AD Bubba Cunningham has released a statement on the situation with P.J. Hairston in hopes of stemming any additional inquiries.
University of North Carolina Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham has issued the following statement:
"The athletic department compliance staff and I are fully aware of recent media accounts related to our men's basketball team. We take these matters very seriously and are looking into these reports and the inferences they contain with all due diligence. It is my practice not to comment on the individuals involved or the details surrounding these reports until we have sufficient understanding of the facts involved. We are still gathering information, learning information from other sources, and we will not comment until we have a strong grasp of each individual situation. Where the facts show mistakes in judgment and/or actions, Coach (Roy) Williams will take and I will support the appropriate disciplinary measures.
"The integrity of the University of North Carolina is of paramount concern to all of us and is the principle on which Coach Williams and the athletic department operate each and every day. The most responsible course of action, however, is to withhold judgment and comment until we are confident we have the facts to do so. I appreciate everyone's understanding of that and we will bring these matters to resolution as soon as possible."
Translation: We aren't talking about it until we know we have all the information to have an idea where this is going to go.
And if the last few days have taught us anything, it is the facts have been very fluid. New information arises every day and instead of responding to new things on a daily basis, Cunningham is opting to wait until all the information is in and can be processed with the NCAA. Of course if you want to parse the statement the use of "individuals" and "each individual situation" could indicate additional players or that there are multiple situations to deal with. He also refers to Roy Williams handling discipline which possibly points to this still being an internal manner.
Speaking of new information there were a couple of items that broke yesterday. The first was more reporting from USA Today's Eric Prisbell and Rachel Axon that four cars tied to Haydn "Fats" Thomas were cited for nine parking violations on the North Carolina campus from February to May.
Rental receipts obtained by USA TODAY Sports that were crossed referenced by license plate with UNC parking tickets show:
-A 2013 GMC Yukon rented by Thomas from Feb. 14 to March 3 received tickets for an expired meter on Feb. 21 and lack of a valid parking permit on Feb. 22.
-A 2012 Camaro SS rented by Thomas from March 25 to April 15 received a ticket on April 15 for lack of a valid permit.
-A 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe rented by Thomas from April 18 to May 2 received a ticket on May 1 for lack of a valid permit.
The Camaro was rented again from April 25 to June 17 by Farrington. The Camaro received a parking ticket on May 28 for lack of a valid permit.
-A 2013 Mercedes Benz 350 rented by Thomas from May 8 to May 30 received four parking tickets, one each for an expired meter on May 22 and 23 and one each for lacking a valid permit on May 23 and May 28.
Unpaid fines for the tickets total $315. USA TODAY Sports contacted UNC's department of public safety seeking more information about the citations on Tuesday and was referred to the university's general counsel's office.
The argument could be made that there is zero proof of who was driving the vehicles. Parking tickets are tied to the car, not the driver and falls back on whoever the car is registered to rather than the driver at the time. In that respect, the parking tickets don't necessarily prove Hairston or anyone else at UNC was driving the cars.
That being said, you also have Hairston having been confirmed as the driver of two of these vehicles. Therefore it is not a huge leap in logic to assume Hairston was driving these on campus and getting ticketed. It is circumstantial to be sure but with the NCAA sometimes that is all it takes. On the other hand, nine parking tickets over four months at UNC, where parking enforcement is ruthless, might indicate occasional use of the vehicles which would certainly lessen the NCAA fallout somewhat.
Of course if you listen to Thomas, the vehicles were not provided to Hairston nor is he responsible for any improper benefits to any UNC players.
Thomas told WRAL he doesn't know what all the fuss is about.
He said if there was a problem, the NCAA would be knocking at his door and said that hasn't happened. He added that UNC and its athletic department have not contacted him either.
Thomas said he let Miykael Faulcon, a basketball player at Elizabeth City State, borrow cars he and his wife rented. Thomas, who called himself a party promoter and is a co-owner of an exotic car rental company in Durham, said Faulcon does odd jobs and yard work for him.
Faulcon was in the Yukon when Hairston was pulled over in Durham. During the stop, police found a half-ounce of marijuana, a 9mm handgun and ammunition in and near the car.
Thomas said Faulcon and Hairston are friends and he thinks Faulcon let Hairston drive. Faulcon denied WRAL's request for an interview while playing in the NC Pro-Am at Durham School of the Arts Tuesday.
Thomas also told WRAL that cars rented in his name were ticketed on the UNC campus, but he again said Faulcon was likely the one on campus.
At this point this is what we have.
-Hairston charged with misdemeanor possession and driving without a license in a rented SUV tied to Thomas.
-Hairston cited for speeding in a rented Camaro tied to Thomas
-Four vehicles cited for parking violations on UNC's campus with no evidence of who was driving them.
-The renter of the vehicles in question denying he provided benefits to Hairston but acknowledging that Faulcon borrowed said vehicles. In the case of both the arrest and the speeding citation, Faulcon was with Hairston.
-In addition to all of this there is a fair amount of social media noise connecting all of these people which includes Leslie McDonald possibly being given/buying a cell phone from Thomas at some point.
Based on the facts in hand there are likely NCAA issues here for Hairston and possibly McDonald. The extent of the NCAA issues rest on how often Hairston used the vehicles and whether Thomas' denials can be believed. His credibility is certainly questionable with felony convictions in his past and the fact he has already contradicted himself once on his connection to UNC players. Of course the NCAA had no qualms about believing the word of a convicted felon to aid their case against Miami football. It will be interesting to see what their approach might be here to Thomas, if he even speaks to them at all. And what if Hairston is driving vehicles Faulcon borrowed? Is that an issue seeing that Faulcon and Hairston are friends? Obviously that goes back to whether you believe Thomas or not seeing he is the primary source of that particular theory.
As Thomas has noted, neither the NCAA nor UNC has spoken to him. If I had to guess, UNC compliance and the NCAA are probably discussing the issues surrounding this. UNC has spoken to Hairston and based on his information is likely working with the NCAA to decide how to proceed. Again, UNC's best case scenario at this stage is whatever happens is a one player case and not a full blown institutional matter. That doesn't mean Hairston should be thrown under the bus, but it does mean whatever happens to him needs to be the beginning and end of the interaction with the NCAA on the matter.