Top-rated defensive lineman Marvin Austin has been kicked off of North Carolina’s football team today. Austin, who has been at the center of an NCAA probe for months, was clearly booted because the university’s athletics department is in full damage control mode.
Highly touted receiver Greg Little and defensive end Robert Quinn have also both been declared “permanently ineligible” by the NCAA. Quinn, who is currently listed at No. 2 on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board, projects as a top pick in the 2011 NFL Draft.
All three players (but especially Austin) have been the focus of a major NCAA investigation into whether or not they received improper benefits from agents.
Austin issued a statement apologizing to the NCAA and UNC, claiming that he had “let you all down and I am truly sorry.”
While it’s nice to think that he might be really sorry for his actions, this is once again just damage control. By trying to show contrition Austin is hoping to salvage his draft stock.
The NCAA said that Little and Quinn were ineligible because they violated rules governing agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct. The ruling says they each accepted travel accommodations, jewelry and other benefits. Little apparently took nearly $5,000 worth of benefits, while Quinn’s total was more than $5,600.
The NCAA also claims that both Little and Quinn were not truthful during interviews with the UNC officials and NCAA staff members.
UNC will not appeal the rulings on Quinn and Little.
The decision to dismiss Austin came after the NCAA provided information that he had received over $10,000 in improper benefits.
When all of this is taken with the academic fraud allegations circling around North Carolina’s football team, one has to imagine that the NCAA will not be kind to head coach Butch Davis and his program.
The smoldering crater the NCAA Committee on Infractions left at USC might look pretty compared to what the COI could do to UNC. After all, at USC, after a four-year investigation, all the NCAA found was one player receiving benefits from someone not associated with the school. In less than five months this investigation has uncovered academic fraud, agent benefits and a connection to a former coach.
Things could get ugly in Chapel Hill.
As for the players involved in the scandal, Quinn still projects as a top 10 pick in the 2011 Draft. Right now Scouts Inc. has him as the top-rated defensive lineman available and grades him out at a 95. The 6’4, 254-pound defensive end is simply a freak coming off the edge and could even play outside linebacker in a 3-4.
Little is currently listed as the No. 4 receiver in the 2011 class by Scouts Inc. and he grades out at an 88. At 6’3, 210 pounds, his size-speed combination is outstanding. His status as a first-rounder just depends on the need for receivers at the top of the draft.
Austin, while certainly talented, likely cost himself first-round money with his actions. The 6’3, 305-pound defensive tackle has shown dominance but not consistency. Still, Scouts Inc. rates him as the No. 5 defensive lineman in the 2011 class, and grades him out at a 92.