12 Tar Heels out for LSU game amid NCAA probe

Twelve players from North Carolina won’t play in the 18th-ranked Tar Heels’ opener against No. 21 LSU in Atlanta on Saturday amid an ongoing NCAA investigation.

The school said Friday that six players _ defensive ends Robert Quinn and Michael McAdoo, cornerbacks Kendric Burney and Charles Brown, receiver Greg Little and suspended defensive tackle Marvin Austin _ were declared ineligible for the opener for “violating school and/or NCAA rules.”

Another six players _ top tailbacks Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston; safeties Brian Gupton, Da’Norris Searcy and Jonathan Smith; and defensive end Linwan Euwell _ are being held out of the game during the ongoing investigation.

In addition, North Carolina said three unnamed players are still in jeopardy of missing the game and didn’t travel with the team when it left Chapel Hill on Friday morning. The school is working with the NCAA to determine their status for the game.

“We are disappointed the players’ choices have denied them the opportunity to compete alongside their teammates and represent the University of North Carolina,” coach Butch Davis said in a statement. “Our coaches and players have a tremendous challenge this weekend, and despite these circumstances, our team will be excited to face LSU.”

It’s unclear how many games Quinn, McAdoo, Burney, Brown, Little and Austin will miss, though the announcement is a massive blow for a program that entered Davis’ fourth season in position to contend for an Atlantic Coast Conference championship. Austin, Little and Burney were among six players who opted in January to return for their senior seasons instead of entering the NFL draft, while Quinn, a junior, is widely considered to be a high first-round pick.

Davis suspended Austin on Wednesday for violating team rules, though he said before Thursday’s practice that Austin “absolutely” had the chance to play again at North Carolina.

The NCAA first visited the campus in July focused on whether Austin and Little received improper benefits from agents. That probe has since expanded into potential academic misconduct involving a tutor.

“We are still working with the NCAA staff to resolve these eligibility issues,” athletic director Dick Baddour said in a statement. “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.”

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