CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina star defensive tackle Marvin Austin was kicked off the football team Monday and the school said the NCAA has declared receiver Greg Little and defensive end Robert Quinn permanently ineligible.
The announcements from the school and the NCAA came as part of the ongoing investigations into whether players received improper benefits from agents.
"I'm also very sad and disappointed that these individuals made these extraordinarily poor choices," coach Butch Davis said during a news conference. "Not only did they jeopardize themselves in their lives, they certainly have jeopardized this team, the university and I know that they're very remorseful about that. But it doesn't diminish the fact that these actions were poor choices in these kids' lives."
The NCAA said Little and Quinn were ineligible because they violated rules governing agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct, saying they each accepted jewelry, travel accommodations and other benefits. According to facts submitted by the university, Little took nearly $5,000 worth of benefits and the value of Quinn's total exceeded $5,600.
The NCAA also said Little and Quinn were not truthful during three interviews with school and NCAA staff, providing "false information despite multiple opportunities to correct their assertions" and offering more accurate information only when faced with evidence that ran contrary to their claims.
Davis and athletic director Dick Baddour informed the players of the decisions Monday morning. Baddour said the school wouldn't appeal the rulings on Quinn and Little, while the decision to dismiss Austin — who has been suspended for violating team rules since Sept. 1 — came after the NCAA provided preliminary information that he had received between $10,000 and $13,000 in improper benefits.
In a one-paragraph statement announcing Austin's dismissal, the school said the decision involved violations of rules for agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct as it did with Quinn and Little.
The three players have sat out all five games for the Tar Heels (3-2) amid the investigation, which began this summer and was initially focused on agent-related benefits before expanding to include possible academic violations.
The status of six other players remains in question. On Saturday, the school announced safety Jonathan Smith — who had also sat out every game — wouldn't play this season, though it didn't specify why. Cornerback Kendric Burney, another NFL prospect who is yet to play, is suspended one more game by the NCAA for improper benefits connected to trips.
Baddour said Austin, Quinn and Little weren't involved in the academic half of the probe, which is being handled by the school's student judicial system.
Austin and Quinn are projected as NFL first-round draft picks, while Little was one of six players who decided to return for their senior seasons instead of declaring themselves eligible for the NFL draft. Baddour said the program should've done more to monitor those high-profile players and their activities, particularly with the trips coming in the offseason.
We should've been doing something else," Baddour said. "We should've acknowledged the level that these guys are and that there were going to be people coming at them. ... I wish we had done more. I'd like to relive that part."
Butch Williams, a Durham-based attorney representing Little, said they were "reviewing all of the information and the penalty to determine whether he will appeal."