- Associated Press - Friday, September 3, 2010

Investigators from the North Carolina Secretary of State’s office have subpoenaed Tar Heels defensive tackle Marvin Austin, a person familiar with the situation said Friday.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. Austin is one of 13 players who did not travel with the 18th-ranked Tar Heels to Atlanta for Saturday’s opener against No. 21 LSU because of an NCAA probe.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall’s office is reviewing whether North Carolina’s sports agents laws have been broken in the wake of the NCAA investigation into the school’s football program.

The NCAA probe initially focused on whether Austin and receiver Greg Little got improper benefits from agents and has now expanded to possible academic violations.

George Jeter, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office, declined to comment on the subpoena.

“All I can say is it’s an active, ongoing inquiry at this time,” he said.

Earlier Friday, the school said it had declared Austin, defensive ends Robert Quinn and Michael McAdoo, cornerbacks Kendric Burney and cornerback Charles Brown, and receiver Greg Little ineligible “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 investigation.

North Carolina also said three other players _ linebackers Quan Sturdivant and Bruce Carter, and safety Deunta Williams _ didn’t travel with the team as the school conferred with the NCAA on their status. Sturdivant and Carter were later cleared and were traveling to Atlanta on Friday night. However, Williams remains sidelined because the NCAA wanted more information before ruling on his status.

The news means the Tar Heels will be without at least six starters from a defense that ranked among the nation’s best last season, including their entire secondary.

“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. The announcement is a massive blow for a program that entered Davis’ fourth season in position to contend for an Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

The optimism had been building since January, when Austin, Little, Burney, Sturdivant, Carter and Williams all announced they would return to school for their senior seasons instead of entering the NFL draft.

Little is the team’s top receiver, while the rest of that group joined Quinn _ a junior widely considered to be a high first-round pick _ on a defense that returned nine starters from a unit that ranked among the nation’s best last season.

Davis had suspended Austin indefinitely for violating team rules Wednesday.

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