North Carolina lost before it even stepped on the plane this morning.
A total of 15 players have either been declared ineligible or remain in limbo for Saturday's season opener against LSU for violations of school and/or NCAA rules, according to a release this morning from the university.
Starters Marvin Austin, Charles Brown, Kendric Burney, Greg Little and Robert Quinn have all been declared ineligible, along with backup defensive end Michael McAdoo. Six others, including the 1-2 punch running back combo of Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston, starting safety Da'Norris Searcy, and backups Linwan Euwell, safety Brian Gupton and safety Jonathan Smith will all be held out of the game while the investigations continue.
The total number of games those 12 players are expected to miss has not been determined, as the NCAA's investigation into possible improper contact with agents and academic misconduct continues.
UNC is also working with the NCAA today to determine the eligibility status of three other players who will not travel to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A kickoff. The Tar Heels left on Friday morning.
This is a huge punch in the gut, not only for North Carolina's chances at beating LSU (game over), but also for the Tar Heels' hopes for the entire season. This is bigger than Butch Davis and any one player within the program. This is the kind of devastating news that could impact the entire season.
T.J. Yates' interceptions? They're the least of UNC's worries.
The Tar Heels will be missing their leading receiver, the top three rushers (Little was third), the top two punt returners, two of the top three interception leaders, and two of the top four tacklers. The two-deep on the preseason depth chart at running back, strong safety and right defensive end will now start with the third-string player, or others will have to be moved around.
“As I have said, there is no single game more important than the character and integrity of this university,” Davis said in the release. “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.”
Too bad UNC's fans won't be excited to watch it.