NCAA probe into UNC football program 'sounding very serious'

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With the start of North Carolina’s 2010 regular season a mere 50 days away, head coach Butch Davis and athletic director Dick Baddour may have a bigger concern than the Tar Heels’ offense once again dragging down a stellar defense.

As you have no doubt heard by now, the NCAA has launched an investigation into UNC’s football program.  Specifically, the organization is looking into football players’ relationships with agents and whether any illicit benefits changed hands.

A tweet from SI.com‘s Stewart Mandel sounds ominous enough in and of itself — The UNC/agent situation sounding very serious. I’m told NCAA has spent months compiling evidence. — but, when coupled with a “report” from a certified agent, it portends a very USC-like situation going on in Chapel Hill.  Only on a much larger scale.

Agent Darren Heitner has posted an intriguing — or, if you’re a Tar Heels fan, chilling — piece on the SportsAgentBlog website and, citing unnamed sources, has made some damning claims as to the scope of those alleged to be involved in wrongdoing and the extent of illegal benefits that may have been received by current UNC players.

So when Joe Schad tells the world that there is a serious NCAA investigation taking place at UNC, sports agents who may be affected should begin to contact their attorneys. Schad notes that Defensive tackle Marvin Austin was a football player who was interviewed. I have a source who tells me that Austin was only 1 of 13 players who have been interviewed – this is far reaching. And it does not only extend to a number of players. The same source tells me that there are a lot of agents that may have dirty hands, including both NFLPA Certified Advisors and marketing agents. Some are being examined more than others.

It is apparently beyond just in-person meetings, rent payments, and travel expenses. We are potentially talking about all expenses paid trips to South Beach, exorbitant amounts of money dropped on accessories, and perhaps even a Bentley or two.

Obviously, the investigation is in its infancy, and literally nothing has been proven thus far.

However, if even some of the allegations are remotely close to being the truth, the sheer scope of what’s being alleged would put the USC/Reggie Bush scandal to shame.

And, given the near-historic sanctions levied on the Trojans’ football program, that’s not the type of characterization anyone associated with the heretofore squeaky-clean UNC athletic department wants to hear.

(Tip O’ the Hat: SI.com’s Andy Staples)