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Associated Press | File March
North Carolina guard P.J. Hairston is in trouble with the law, and possibly the NCAA, after twice being stopped by police while driving rented vehicles tied to a convicted felon.
Wednesday, July 10, 2013
You’d think North Carolina would’ve learned something after all it’s been through, but apparently not.
Because here we go again.
Three years after the football program dragged an entire university into the slime of scandal, the school finds itself being dragged down again, plastered on the pages of USA Today, the subject of stories in the Associated Press and statewide newspapers and, once again, with the NCAA sniffing around.
This time it’s basketball. And once again, the school is silent.
Come on, Carolina. Wake up.
This time it’s a basketball player, the kid from Greensboro who provided so much energy last season, carrying the team through long stretches and giving the school something to build around as Coach Roy Williams tries to get his program back to the top of the college game. P.J. Hairston was going to be a big part of that.
But now what?
Hairston is in trouble with the law and possibly the NCAA. We’ll see how it plays out. But is he in any trouble at all with the school or his basketball coach? Who knows? Neither is talking.
In the absence of reaction by the university or the basketball program, the story spins out of control, casting a bad light on the school and maybe even an unfair light on Hairston. We’ll hold judgment on the latter.
Here’s what we know: Hairston has twice been stopped by Durham police while in rented vehicles tied to a convicted felon. One was rented to Haydn Thomas, one was rented to a woman with the same address as Thomas. Hairston was allegedly speeding, and he was stopped after a gun was apparently tossed from the car and charged with possession of marijuana and driving without a license.
The school’s athletics director, Bubba Cunningham, confirmed that the NCAA is also looking into possible ties between Hairston and Greensboro resident Rodney Blackstock, who has been accused of giving $10,000 to the AAU coach of former Kansas guard Ben McLemore to land the future lottery pick as a client.
Who knows what the truth is? It’s unlikely Hairston will be punished harshly for any of this. Charges are likely to be reduced, even dropped, and he could end up paying a fine or something and walk away relatively unscathed. He is, after all, only 20. And he’s innocent until proven guilty.
It would be nice to have heard that already from the school or its basketball coach. But instead, Hairston is left to spin alone in the newspapers and to endure the constant hammering on websites while the university quietly ponders its strategy. In the meantime, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is being skewered again, continuing a three-year spiral of publicity that has ruined centuries of clean living, academic propriety and athletic purity.
Has the school not learned anything? What in the world is going on over there?
Somebody needs to say something here. People are talking again, and that’s not a good thing. The football scandal was ugly. It was a tawdry glimpse inside a university steeped in tradition and proud of a long-standing reputation in academics and athletics.
In three years, UNC has become the butt of jokes and the home of collegiate scandals, inquests, NCAA penalties, disgraced university employees, fired professors and departed football coaches, athletics directors and chancellors.
A former governor went in to try to make sense of it all, and he couldn’t. Gov. Jim Martin’s report to the university trustees was, ultimately, another embarrassment. Newspaper reporters have been encamped in Chapel Hill. Websites from major publications to N.C. State’s PackPride.com have revealed ugly facts about fake classes for athletes, dirty tutors and grade-protected transcripts.
And now the basketball program, which remained largely above the fray through the earlier process, has been pulled into the muck.
What the school decides to do about Hairston, a former Dudley star who has never been in trouble, that we know of, is up to the school. What the basketball program decides to do about Hairston is up to Cunningham and Williams, if not the new administration.
But something needs to be said. Somebody at UNC needs to make a decision, if for no other reason than to get the national spotlight off the state’s flagship university for the first time in three years. You would think that would be obvious to somebody over there. You’d think they would’ve learned that by now.
North Carolina’s alumni are seething again. It’s not about football this time. It’s not about no-show classes or parking tickets or jewelry or text messages. This time it’s about basketball. And that’s no joking matter in Chapel Hill.
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