UNC continues to wait on NCAA for word on Hairston, McDonald

Leslie McDonald, left, and P.J. Hairston, are sitting out and awaiting the NCAA's word. (USATSI)
Leslie McDonald, left, and P.J. Hairston, are sitting out and awaiting the NCAA's word. (USATSI)

If you thought P.J. Hairston's suspension at UNC was strictly in the hands of Roy Williams, think again. And if you're wondering why we still don't have a timeline for Hairston to return to the court this season, here's the reason: The NCAA is fully in charge right now, so Williams can't really act on anything. The NCAA is looking into Hairston and McDonald and the possibility that both received improper benefits.

The investigations are for two separate matters, and this comes after we knew as recently as late August that the NCAA had not yet begun investigating Hairston for a saga many are familiar with in the college hoops world. He was pulled over three times in the offseason, the first two while driving rental cars connected to a felon. The ex-con in question, Haydn "Fats" Thomas, has denied specifically "knowing" Hairston.

It remains unclear if and how Hairston could have received benefits in the eyes of the NCAA. A player driving a rental car is a case without much -- if any -- precedent. So while the NCAA searches, investigates ... UNC waits.

“The university and the NCAA are still working together to resolve an eligibility issue,” UNC spokesman Steve Kirschner told reporters Thursday. “There’s no timetable. It’ll be done when it’s done.”

Hairston was indefinitely suspended on July 28 by Williams, following his third run-in with the law while driving a vehicle. That time, it was for speeding while manning a female friend's car.

As for McDonald, he is awaiting the NCAA's word because it remains in question if he received benefits while acting as an unofficial spokesman for a mouthguard company. North Carolina sent a cease-and-desist letter the company over the summer, when it learned McDonald was somehow affiliated with Iceberg Guards. McDonald wore the mouthguards last season and his picture was featured on the company's website.

"It's what it is," Williams said Thursday, after he announced Hairston and McDonald would miss the 1-0 Heels' Friday night game against Holy Cross. "Everyone is trying to do their best and we're trying to move along. We just do the best we can."

Hairston and McDonald are able to practice, and have done so since the start of the preseason. Williams called them "quality teammates" amid the ongoing process. McDonald is the only senior on scholarship for UNC.

Prior to the NCAA's investigation, North Carolina's athletic director said publicly he expected Hairston to play this season, a sentiment repeated by Hairston himself shortly thereafter.

CBS Sports Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his seventh season covering college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics and... Full Bio

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