NCAA, not UNC, could decide Hairston’s penalty
North Carolina coach Roy Williams said last month that he is waiting until all the information comes out before deciding what to do about P.J. Hairston.
In the end, it might not be entirely up to him. UNC’s leading scorer in 2012-13 could be punished by the NCAA as well.
Hairston was stopped for speeding in mid-May and was also arrested for possession of marijuana and driving without a license in early June.
In both cases, he was driving rental cars that have been linked to Durham resident Haydn Patrick “Fats” Thomas. According to USA Today, Thomas rented the 2013 Yukon SUV that Hairston was driving in June, and Catinia Farrington, who shares an address with Thomas, rented the 2012 Chevrolet sedan Hairston was driving in May.
While Thomas said he’s not a UNC booster and isn’t connected to an agent, Hairston’s use of the vehicles could still be an impermissible benefit under NCAA regulations.
John Infante, an expert on NCAA compliance issues and the author of the Bylaw Blog, said the basic rule is that an athlete cannot accept anything that’s not available to the general public.
There are exceptions – for instance, if the athlete receives something from a person he or she had a pre-existing relationship with that the NCAA recognizes, such as a family member – but Thomas, 39, denies having a prior connection with the 20-year-old Hairston.
Infante said that, assuming nothing else comes out, he expects Hairston to have to pay the value of the rental car for the time he used it to charity as restitution, and also sit out a few games at the start of the season.
Former N.C. State player C.J. Leslie had to pay back $410 and sit out the first three games of last season after a friend had let Leslie borrow his car for a week, a benefit the NCAA valued at $150, and also paid $260 in apartment fees for Leslie’s half-brother.
Farrington rented the Camaro for 54 days and was charged $3,249. It’s still unclear how long Hairston had the car for, and Farrington did not respond to requests for comment.
“Unless you’re getting into thousands of dollars, it shouldn’t be more than a 10-20 percent penalty, which is somewhere from 3-6 games,” Infante said.
An NCAA spokesperson said the organization could not comment on ongoing or potential cases. UNC has refused to comment since Hairston’s arrest first became public.
While Thomas has said he didn’t lend the car to Hairston, he did confirm to WTVD-TV
that he sold an old iPhone 4 to UNC senior Leslie McDonald, who acknowledged the purchase over Twitter last November.
Infante said that McDonald likely wouldn’t be penalized by the NCAA for buying the iPhone, since it’s hard to determine the market value for used goods.
However, it could bring into question whether UNC should have been monitoring Thomas, a convicted felon who lives in Durham.
“In most people’s minds, a booster buys tickets and donates money, or they’re an alum,” Infante said. “But you might ask if UNC should have known that he sold (McDonald) the phone… in which case it does raise the question of whether or not (UNC) should have been watching with this rental car.
“Basically at this point there would be an issue for UNC if they knew this guy was having contact with or providing benefits to athletes, and they didn’t do enough to keep the athletes away from him, or to monitor his contact with athletes and educate him and make sure he wasn’t giving them stuff.”