CHAPEL HILL – North Carolina coach Roy Williams said the school has researched his players, and reviewed their emails – as well as those of the team’s academic advisor. So as his Tar Heels prepare to open basketball practice Friday night, he has no reason to believe that the NCAA probe into agent benefits and possible academic misconduct on the football team spills over to his program.
“I know that they’ve [the school] told me we’re in great shape and I know they haven’t requested any meetings with me, or any meetings with any of our players,’’ Williams said at his team’s media day Thursday. “I’ve got enough things to worry about, and with the Chancellor and with Dickie [Baddour, the athletics director], I think we’ve got great guidance and they’re doing everything they have to do to not be surprised.
“And so I would feel like if there was anything negative, I would know about it – and I haven’t heard one thing whatsoever.”
Reached Thursday evening, Baddour said he had nothing to add to Williams’ comments.
Williams first said about a month ago that none of his players had academic ties to the former undergraduate tutor (who worked for both the school, and football coach Butch Davis) who possibly gave too much help to athletes on papers for class. Monday, Baddour that the agent benefits that led to wide receiver Greg Little to being ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA were received after his 10-game stint with the basketball team in 2008. In all, 14 football players have missed at least one game as part of the probe.
Williams acknowledged that contact between agents and his players is always concern, and he goes out of his way to personally try to monitor it in his program.
“I can’t imagine anybody in the country that worries about, and tries to keep their eyes and ears open on that more than I do,’’ Williams said. “I cannot imagine. I check every ticket list – personally check every ticket list. I’m the guy that stuffs the envelopes [with tickets] in every road game. I want to know who it is hanging around the locker room; I want to know who that guy is. We start from the first day, talking about it.”
NCAA bylaws don’t prohibit players or their families from meeting with agents, as long as they don’t agree (orally or in writing) to be represented by the agent or accept benefits. And while the NFL Players’ Association forbids agents from contacting football players until after their junior seasons (when they are first allowed to turn pro), there is no similar rule for basketball (where players can turn pro after their freshman season).
That’s one of the reasons forward Ed Davis’ biography ended up posted for a brief period of time on PTA Sports Management's Web site last February -- making it appear as if the then-sophomore was ready to give up his remaining eligibility for the NBA. (He eventually did, signing with another agent.) Vincent Porter, founder of the Chicago-based agency, said then that he had been in contact with the Davis family on several occasions, having met them through a mutual friend.
Williams on Thursday made it clear, though, that he thought there was little agents could do for basketball players while they were still in school – especially because NBA rookie contracts are already set.
“There’s really nothing they [agents] can do for you; you can either frickin’ play or you can’t,’’ he said. “ … I don’t like the guys, even the guys that are good, I don’t like them. I tell them, ‘You’re the best in a terrible profession.’ And I’ve got some guys that I’ve had two or three of my guys stay with, and I say, ‘I still don’t’ like you.’”
Williams re-iterated that he can’t imagine that anyone tries to monitor his players’ interactions more than him or his staff. But he also acknowledged that it’s a difficult job for the school.
“We have 800 student-athletes on this campus,’’ he said. “That means we have 1,600 parents. That means we have 2,400 people, and there is no way in Hades you can monitor what they do all the time. The only thing you can do is educate them, and plead, and beg, borrow and steal, and get them to come around to your line of thinking – and that’s exactly the way I feel.
“… You have no way of monitoring everything they do, every second of the day. And yet, that’s what you want to do, and that’s what you’re held accountable for in some cases. But it’s not an easy deal. … The bottom line is, people have to make decisions, and the bottom line is, people should know right from wrong.”
-- Robbi Pickeral