Shortly before the start of what North Carolina hopes will be a bounce-back football season, the Heels suspended 13 players for games at the start of the year. The suspensions are spread apart in spots, and not everyone will miss the same amount of time.
The suspensions are for selling team-issued Jordans. That’s a violation of NCAA rules, which North Carolina self-reported.
The rules prohibit college athletes from making money in any ways that aren’t available to other students (and also some that are). That includes a ban on selling team merchandise: “An item received for participation in intercollegiate athletics may not be sold or exchanged or assigned for another item of value,” the NCAA’s rulebook says.
UNC recently switched from a regular old Nike school to a Jordan Brand school. An Inside Carolina report detailed how the transition could’ve made the shoes more valuable:
UNC announced the arrival of exclusive Air Jordan 3s in a Jan. 11 Instagram post. When asked in the comments section when the shoes would go on sale to the general public, a reply by the program’s equipment staff indicated the shoes were a team-issued item only and would not be available at retail.
A standard disclaimer: The people who run the NCAA and UNC would never accept working for tuition, room, board, books, and cool Jordan gear they’re not allowed to sell.
Not every player is sitting at the same time, and the suspensions vary in length.
They mostly occur across the Heels’ first four games:
- 11 players out for Week 1 against Cal
- 10 players out for Week 2 against ECU
- Eight players out for Week 3 against UCF
- Eight players out for Week 4 against Pitt
“Multiple players share the same position, so to protect the health and safety of the students, the NCAA approved a request to stagger certain suspensions,” UNC said.
Here’s the full list of suspended players.
Suspended four games:
- QB Chazz Surratt
- OL Brian Anderson
- OL Quiron Johnson
- OL Jordan Tucker
- WR Beau Corrales
- DE Malik Carney
- DE Tomon Fox
- DE Tyrone Hopper
- LB Malik Robinson
Carney and Fox, both defensive ends, are the players with staggered suspensions. Carney is missing games against ECU, UCF, Pitt, and Virginia Tech. Fox won’t play against Miami, Syracuse, Virginia, or Georgia Tech. Everyone else’s suspension starts in Week 1 and finishes after the amount of games you’d think it would.
Suspended two games:
- DB Greg Ross
- DB Tre Shaw
Suspended one game:
- QB Jack Davidson
- OL Jonah Melton
The program didn’t make clear who was issuing these suspensions: UNC or the NCAA. It sounds like the two parties consulted on the matter, working off of NCAA rules.
Several of the suspended players are starters and prominent contributors.
Sophomore Surratt was in contention to be the Week 1 starting QB after a spring position battle with junior Nathan Elliott. Corrales was in the receiver rotation as a true freshman in 2017. Carney is the team’s leading returning tackler, tackler for loss, and sacker of QBs. Fox is an important part of UNC’s line, too, and Hopper also got snaps in ‘17. Shaw played in every game at corner.
These suspensions have nothing to do with the Heels’ other NCAA case.
That one just wrapped after seven years of stops and starts, ending with the NCAA not punishing UNC despite finding that the school committed academic fraud.
To some observers, that case and this one might suggest that the NCAA is more preoccupied with players not getting paid than with anything about academics.
Word of the players’ suspensions came down in August, shortly after Heels head coach Larry Fedora made news for bad reasons at the ACC’s media days.