The most important thing to know in the ongoing saga surrounding North Carolina wing P.J. Hairston is that it’s constantly changing and mutating.
At first, it was an arrest on a possession of marijuana charge on June 5. There was a gun found outside the vehicle (which was a rental), and there was some question as to who the rental belonged to. A Pack Pride message board user found the answer to that: Haydn “Fats” Thomas, a convicted felon. (Oh, and the above link includes a flow chart from that Pack Pride thread that began on July 2, which has now reached 48 pages. The flow chart is probably obsolete by now, too. But it’s fun.)
For a day or so, it looked like message board fodder. But then USA Today’s Eric Prisbell obtained a copy of the rental receipt, confirming it was indeed Thomas who rented the car Hairston was driving.
And when something like a potential violation for extra benefits comes into play, and the NCAA is involved, as we’ve all learned by now, the best approach is always to be quiet. Say nothing.
UNC has taken that approach so far, for the most part. (North Carolina athletic director Bubba Cunningham issued a statement on Wednesday essentially saying the school was waiting for all the facts to come in).
But Thomas has not. And that could be a problem. He initially told Prisbell he didn’t know anyone at North Carolina. Well, the small problem of pictures from his (now deleted) Twitter account with himself and UNC athletes suggested otherwise. Thomas has since backtracked from that initial statement, or at least tried to clarify it. Interestingly enough, institutionally speaking, Hairston’s alleged connection to Thomas (a convicted felon) is actually better for UNC than if Thomas were an agent, or a booster for that matter.
As John Infante of Bylaw Blog told the Durham Herald-Sun, the only likely violation based on the facts we know would result in Hairston having to repay the value of the rental car and sit out a few games. Former N.C. State player C.J. Leslie sat out the first three games of last year and repaid some money after borrowing a friend’s car a year ago.
But this story continues to mutate. A car that Hairston was driving when he was cited for speeding back on May 13 was rented by Catinia Farrington, who shares Thomas’ Durham address. Prisbell also wrote that nine parking tickets were issued between Feb. 22 and May 28 on the UNC campus for four rental vehicles (all in the names of Farrington or Thomas). None of that means that UNC student-athletes were driving those vehicles at the time, but if that is the case, and it’s proven, that could be bad news as well.
Oh, and a WRALSports.com piece showed that Fats, who seems to know a lot of athletes from “throwing parties”, might be connected with more local athletes than just at UNC.
The only good news for Hairston? Today, the Durham Police Department announced that they don’t anticipate filing more charges against him, or anyone, in regards to the June 2 incident.
Cunningham’s statement basically confirmed what everyone assumed, that no one is going to make any sudden movements here. UNC head coach Roy Williams was found on a jog by ABC11 on July 9, and he said much of the same thing.
Williams could suspend Hairston indefinitely, sure. But it’s July. Right now, with no additional charges being filed and likely just a minor NCAA violation, there may be nothing more to this than Hairston sorting out his marijuana possession charge (he goes to court for that on August 6). And he has no prior convictions, which should work in his favor.
UNC has been through too much in the past few years, both from a public relations standpoint and an NCAA standpoint, to have stayed completely silent. But there’s certainly nothing wrong with the university — or Williams — allowing more facts to come out before rushing to judgment.
But once this all began, Williams likely asked Hairston to tell him everything about what happened. Hairston had better hope, as this slow trickle of information continues to seep out, that he did.