CHAPEL HILL — In an unprecedented decision, the National Collegiate Athletic Association has reinstated former University of North Carolina defensive tackle Marvin Austin and defensive end Robert Quinn, who had both been previously ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for collegiate play, so that they can appear in the Bowl Championship Series Championship Game on January 10, 2011.
Austin and Quinn, who were ruled permanently ineligible for violations of NCAA agent benefits, preferential treatment and ethical conduct rules, did not in any games for UNC this season.
Austin is expected to start at nose tackle for the Auburn University Tigers. Quinn is slated to start at defensive end for the University of Oregon Ducks.
The NCAA's head of enforcement, Julie Roe Lach, said that the decision reinstating Austin and Quinn was made in light of its decision to reinstate Auburn University's Heisman finalist quarterback Cam Newton, after a one-day suspension.
Newton began his college career at the University of Florida, but left there, according to the Orlando Sentinel, amid allegations of academic fraud and following an arrest in which he was found with a stolen laptop which he threw out the window when police arrived. Newton then transferred to Auburn.
After the NCAA determined that Cam Newton's father, Cecil Newton, actively marketed his son to at least one other university in a pay-for-play scheme amounting to $180,000 before the younger Newton signed with Auburn, he was held out of one practice before being reinstated.
"Since these violations [by Austin and Quinn] occurred while these student-athletes were enrolled at UNC," said the NCAA's Lach, "it seemed reasonable that they also should be allowed to play with other, championship-potential, teams."
"With Austin and Quinn, the process took longer than it did with Cam because, although both are projected as first-round picks in the upcoming NFL draft, neither is viable Heisman trophy prospect — and we had bigger fish to fry," said Lach.
[EDITOR'S NOTE: As defensive players, neither Quinn nor Austin was considered a likely candidate for the Heisman, which is awarded annually to "the player deemed the most outstanding player in collegiate football," which is clearly understood by Heisman voters to mean most outstanding offensive player, as no strictly defensive player has ever won the award.]
The NCAA, Lach wanted to emphasize, had no part in the punishment meted out this season to Oregon's Heisman finalist running back LaMichael James. According to The Oregonian, police in Springfield, Oregon, arrested James outside his apartment last February, after an argument with a former girlfriend escalated. James was charged with with one count of strangulation, two counts of fourth-degree assault and two charges of physical harassment.. He pled down to physical harassment and was sentenced to 10 days in jail and 24 months of probation.
As a result of this criminal conviction, Oregon suspended James for one game, the season opener versus New Mexico — which Oregon won 72-0. Lach said the NCAA was considering sanctions against Oregon for their punishment of James. The game, Lach noted, was regionally televised on the Oregon Sports Network.
Lach also said that the NCAA had not reinstated the five other UNC players, defensive end Michael McAdoo, receiver Greg Little, cornerback Charles Brown, safety Brian Gupton or safety Jonathan Smith, who were all ruled ineligible to play for the entire season by the NCAA. Lach said the NCAA would not do so until the NCAA received more complete information from Nielsen Media Research about those players' Q scores and viewer name recognition.
Gary D. Gaddy, it is reported by the Chapel Hill Herald, has provided false information to his column's readers despite "multiple opportunities to correct his assertions."
A version of this story was published in the Chapel Hill Herald on Friday December 10, 2010.
Copyright 2010 Gary D. Gaddy