North Carolina Tar Heels

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North Carolina avoids NCAA sanctions in academic fraud case

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More than three years after the NCAA began its investigation, it’s judgment day for North Carolina athletics in general and Tar Heels football specifically.  And by “judgment” we mean “very light tap on the wrist and a stern chiding.”

In its long-anticipated ruling released Friday morning, the NCAA announced that its Committee On Infractions panel had determined that it “could not conclude that the University of North Carolina violated NCAA academic rules when it made available deficient Department of African and Afro-American Studies ‘paper courses’ to the general student body, including student-athletes.” The key passage from the NCAA’s release on its findings?

“While student-athletes likely benefited from the courses, so did the general student body. Additionally, the record did not establish that the university created and offered the courses as part of a systemic effort to benefit only student-athletes,” COI chief hearing officer and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey stated.

UNC officials, including head coach Larry Fedora, appeared before the COI nearly three months after, for the third time in as many years, the university responded to a Notice of Allegations connected to the decade-long academic scandal.

In June of 2014, the NCAA informed UNC “that it would reopen its original 2011 examination of the past academic irregularities.” The first NOA was sent to the university in 2015, with UNC accused of lack of institutional control as to student-athletes in multiple sports, including football, receiving preferential access to the controversial African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) courses dating all the way back to 2002.  In April of 2016, UNC received an amended NOA that replaced “lack of institutional control” with “failure to monitor.”

That original 2011 investigation resulted in the UNC football program being slapped with a postseason ban for the 2012 season and the reduction of 15 scholarships over a three-year period as well as other sanctions, including vacating of wins, in the impermissible benefits/academic fraud scandal that ended Butch Davis‘ tenure at the school.

“While student-athletes likely benefited from the so-called ‘paper courses’ offered by North Carolina, the information available in the record did not establish that the courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes,” Sankey said in a portion of his statement. “The panel is troubled by the university’s shifting positions about whether academic fraud occurred on its campus and the credibility of the Cadwalader report, which it distanced itself from after initially supporting the findings. However, NCAA policy is clear. The NCAA defers to its member schools to determine whether academic fraud occurred and, ultimately, the panel is bound to making decisions within the rules set by the membership.”

The COI did find that a pair of violations were committed in the case, with both coming after the fact as the former department chair and a former curriculum secretary failed to cooperate during the investigation.

To summarize the NCAA’s response…

Notre Dame QB Brandon Wimbush in a walking boot, listed as day-to-day

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Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush is traversing the Irish’s South Bend campus in a walking boot after sustaining an injury to his right foot.

He’s listed as day-to-day for Notre Dame’s visit to North Carolina on Saturday. (But then again, aren’t we all?)

“He experienced some foot soreness after the [Miami (Ohio)] game, so we put him in a walking boot, which is fairly typical relative to procedures,” head coach Brian Kelly told Blue and Gold Illustrated. “We just want to be really cautious with him, and we’ll begin the process of practicing and see how he progresses during the week.”

The genesis of the injury is not known. Rumors state the injury happened in an off-campus “incident.” Wimbush hasn’t exactly stated how his foot started hurting.

“He went out and felt his foot was not right, and he went home. That’s what he told me. I believe him,” Kelly said. “I have no reason not to believe him based upon my relationship with him over the last three years.”

Wimbush has taken the bulk of the snaps at quarterback this season. The junior is 69-of-132 (52.3 percent) for 782 yards (5.9 per attempt) with six touchdowns against two interceptions while rushing 68 times for 402 yards and eight touchdowns. Sophomore Ian Book has backed up Wimbush, hitting 3-of-8 passes for 51 yards with five rushes for 40 yards.

Regardless of who plays at quarterback, the 21st-ranked Irish are still expected to beat a 1-4 North Carolina team (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC) that ranks in the 70’s nationally in yards per play and scoring.

 

North Carolina’s leading receiver out with season-ending injury

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The injury news has gone from bad to worse for North Carolina.

On its injury report released ahead of its game against Georgia Tech, UNC revealed that Austin Proehl is now out for the remainder of the 2017 season. The football program didn’t specify, at all, what type of injury with which the wide receiver is dealing.

However, it’s believed that Proehl is dealing with an injury to his left arm/shoulder.

As Proehl has yet to use his redshirt, the true senior could return to the Tar Heels for a fifth season in 2018. However, as speculation about the severity of the injury began to spread, Proehl seemed to indicate on Twitter that his time as a Tar Heel had come to an end.

Proehl currently leads the Tar Heels with 16 catches for 270 yards. Last season, his 43 receptions and 597 receiving yards were third on the team.

With Proehl sidelined for the balance of the season, Jordan Cunningham (12 receptions) and Anthony Ratliff-Williams (192 receiving yards) will take the lead in the Tar Heels’ passing attack moving forward.

Banged up North Carolina down three starters after trio of season-ending injuries

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North Carolina’s injury situation has gone from bad to worse in the blink of an eye this week.

The school confirmed via their weekly injury report on Thursday night that three starters were lost for the rest of the season as linebacker Andre Smith, offensive lineman William Sweet and receiver Thomas Jackson all won’t return to action. The trio, who were not listed with a specific injury, were part of a whopping 19 players who were banged up on the report.

Smith did not play in last week’s game for the Tar Heels but it appears both Sweet and Jackson went down against Old Dominion and did not return.

“It is what it is. It’s the same old thing: The next guy has to get up, and the next guy has to play,” head coach Larry Fedora said earlier in the week. “You hope you can build some type of continuity at some point.”

The three starters join a lengthy injury list for the Tar Heels that is now up to nearly a 1/10th of the roster — nine names long — out for the year.

Defensive lineman Jalen Dalton was also ruled doubtful for UNC’s game against triangle rival Duke on Saturday, along with cornerback Corey Bell. offensive lineman Cam Dillard and Bentley Spain, as well as wideout Dazz Newsome, were all listed as questionable.

Washington’s Dante Pettis returns punt for TD in third straight game, ties two NCAA records in the process

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Why you would ever, ever punt to Dante Pettis is beyond me.  Yet, here we are.  Again.

In the first two weeks of the 2017 season, the Washington returner extraordinaire had taken two punts to the house, giving him seven such touchdowns for his career.  In the first quarter of its Week 3 game, Fresno State opted to punt to him and, well, Pettis did what Pettis does.

Yep.

In one fell swoop, Pettis tied a pair of NCAA records.

The record for career punt returns for touchdowns is now shared by Pettis with Texas Tech’s Wes Welker (2000-03) and Oklahoma’s Antonio Perkins (2001-04).  Kansas State’s David Allen (1998) and North Carolina’s Ryan Switzer (2013) are the only other players to return one for a score in back-to-back-to-back games.