For now, it appears that Quan Sturdivant will be one of the few experienced members of UNCs defense on Saturday.
  • Photo by George A. Hoffman Jr.
  • For now, it appears that Quan Sturdivant will be one of the few experienced members of UNC’s defense on Saturday.

The UNC football team is going to have to play LSU on Saturday night with a proverbial hand tied behind its back.

The Tar Heels left for Atlanta this morning missing 15 players as a result of its ongoing investigations of academic shenanigans and possible inappropriate relationships with agents, and only three of them might end up making the trip.

The school has declared six players ineligible for the opener, while six others will be withheld from the game and three players — whose names have not been released — are still undergoing investigations to determine their status for Saturday.

The ineligible players defensive tackle Marvin Austin, cornerback Charles Brown, cornerback Kendric Burney, wide receiver Greg Little, defensive end Michael McAdoo and defensive end Robert Quinn.

Those also being withheld include tailback Shaun Draughn, defensive end Linwan Euwell, safety Brian Gupton, tailback Ryan Houston, safety Da’Norris Searcy and safety Jonathan Smith.

The number of games those players may miss because of the investigations has not been determined. Earlier, UNC coach Butch Davis had announced that Austin was on an indefinite suspension for an unspecified violation of team rules.

UNC athletic director Dick Baddour
  • Photo courtesy UNC athletics
  • UNC athletic director Dick Baddour

“We’re obviously very disappointed to learn that the actions of a number of our student-athletes have resulted in their being unable to compete in Saturday’s game,” UNC athletic director Dick Baddour said in a statement released today. “It is important to note again that people should not make assumptions as to the nature of each student-athlete’s involvement with these issues.

“We are still working with the NCAA staff to resolve these eligibility issues. The NCAA is focusing on each of their situations on a case-by-case basis. Together we are working to determine their status in as thorough and fair a process as is possible.”

UNC chancellor Holden Thorp also released a short statement on the matter.

“Dick Baddour, Butch Davis and I are determined to use this as an opportunity to look hard at our programs, resources and people to ensure that everyone associated with the football program upholds the values that are central to Carolina’s culture, most especially our academic values,” Thorp said.

Davis’ Friday statement said the team would continue to press on despite missing from 12 to 15 key players for Saturday’s contest. Davis had relegated some number of them to the scout teams this week, so the team will have had some amount of practice with Saturday’s actual starters on the field.

“As I have said, there is no single game more important than the character and integrity of this University,” Davis said. “We are disappointed the players’ choices have denied them the opportunity to compete alongside their teammates and represent the University of North Carolina. Our coaches and players have a tremendous challenge this weekend, and despite these circumstances, our team will be excited to face LSU.”