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North Carolina goes big time with major infractions case

Welcome to the big time, North Carolina.

Your seal has been broken, cork removed, twist-top opened. You're in the big time now with the football penalties handed down on Monday. Let all the anguish spill out.

This your second major violation case – ever. The last was 51 years ago under Frank McGuire in hoops. A lot of the initial angst over this case had to do with Carolina's previous purity. Now it has to do with the football program's clumsiness. At least it could have, you know, won while failing to monitor and using the best recruiter an agent can employ.

This case breaks a streak of six in a row by schools that have played in BCS bowls. At least, Ohio State, Cincinnati, Boise State, LSU, Georgia Tech and West Virginia could argue it was “worth” it. All six of those programs have been decided since July.

Unless you get really broken up about vacated records, the trophies, memories and championships gained from those bowl trips still matter.

For North Carolina football, not so much. It cheated and didn't win which – after the wrongdoing itself -- is about the second-worst thing you can do in this modern age. Oh, it won enough not to embarrass Roy Williams. Also, it sent an inordinate amount of pros to the NFL for such an underachieving program.

But it didn't gain the biggest benefit possible from wrongdoing. Taking home one or two of those trophies. On his way out the door, Butch Davis proved he is still a heck of a coach. Fourteen players missed at least one game during the 2010 season. I remember the Tar Heels, coated with scandal, almost beating LSU in the '10 opener at the Georgia Dome.

As a coach, he's still got it. He just won't have “it” in major college football for a while. In his zeal to make Carolina into one of the “haves” he used terrible judgment. This case can be boiled down to Davis hiring John Blake. Davis, the man who diligently led Miami out of the NCAA muck, drove North Carolina football into quicksand the moment he asked Blake to join the staff. He knew Blake's recruiting rep. We all did. Blake was always a hell of a recruiter. Just don't tell that to an NCAA investigator without he or she snickering.

Blake not only was moonlighting with an agent at North Carolina – the since deceased Gary Wichard – he also either failed to cooperate with the NCAA or took his time doing it. Blake refused to provide information and when he did, it was bogus according to the NCAA.

One Carolina player received $13,500 in cash and gifts according to the association. Heck, that's more than all the Ohio State players received in Tattoogate ($14,000).

There was one interesting note that should be relevant in the future: The NCAA accused North Carolina of not “consistently” monitoring its players' social media. It turns out the school could have found evidence of wrongdoing just by dropping in on Facebook or Twitter.

Before you go all Big Brother on that one, a few keystrokes isn't too much to ask to keep the program out of NCAA jail. There was a former Ohio State player who, when that case broke, proudly tweeted that players had been getting the “hook up” for years.

Look, I follow 220-plus folks on Twitter. It's not too much to ask the Carolina administration to monitor 400-500 athletes.

I thought it strange that Larry Fedora even took this job. I'm beginning to understand now. Carolina is in a BCS league that, under normal circumstances, should be easy enough to win. There is little pressure compared to hoops. Win seven or eight every year and they leave you alone. Do that in the next five years and Fedora can write his ticket to a better BCS job.

But they've stuck him with a bowl ban and the loss of 15 scholarships over the next three seasons. Fedora already had a honeymoon period built in when the school gave him a seven-year contract after self-penalizing itself two years' probation.

Now he's got an extended vacation. Fedora will win because he's a good coach. It will just take a little longer. Besides, Carolina football is in the big time now.
 
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