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Tar Heels relieved NCAA investigation is finally over

UNC Notebook

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Regardless of what happened on the court or field of play, the last week has provided a monumental win for UNC, as the NCAA announced that the Tar Heel athletic department will not be sanctioned for the academic scandal resulting from “paper” classes taken by many athletes over nearly two decades.

Of course, Carolina’s coaches are be quick to point out that the cloud of uncertainty that has overshadowed their programs during the past seven years constituted a significant punishment in itself. 

“You’re happy that it’s over,” Larry Fedora explained on Saturday, “but don’t think that we haven’t been penalized. Since I’ve been here, we’ve been penalized. Six years.” 

Fedora’s comments echo the sentiments of former Miami head football coach Al Golden, who once noted that waiting for the NCAA judgment against the Hurricanes was “truly a much more difficult probation than probation itself.” 

Nevertheless, Carolina’s past wins and championships remain in the record books, and recruits in all sports now know that there is no danger of sanctions from the academic scandal impacting their careers at UNC.

2018 BASKETBALL TEAM UNVEILED

The timing of the NCAA release was especially convenient for the Tar Heels, who hosted top-five national recruit Romeo Langford (New Albany, Indiana) for an official visit while also unveiling the 2018 basketball team — and the 2017 national championship banner —  to the public with the annual “Late Night with Roy” event on Friday night. 

Graduate transfer Cameron Johnson was the star of the scrimmage portion of the evening, displaying a silky shooting touch while scoring 13 points (including 2 of 3 from 3-point range). Johnson’s ability to help replace the scoring production of last year’s Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year Justin Jackson will be critical for Carolina’s hopes to defend its national title, but Roy Williams wants Johnson to focus on improving his game on the other side of the court. 

“He is a scorer,” Williams said on the Carolina Insider podcast. “We want him to be working hard on the backboards and be a defensive player.”

DIFFERENT QB BUT SAME RESULT

The Carolina football team’s offense seems to have relocated its running game against rival Virginia on Saturday. Freshman Michael Carter led the way with 157 yards on only 13 carries (a robust 12 yards per carry), including runs of 56 and 47 yards. 

Unfortunately, the Carolina passing attack remained AWOL, as the Tar Heel receiving corps struggled to get separation against Virginia’s aggressive press coverage. Quarterback Brandon Harris (starting in place of Chazz Surratt) was never able to find a rhythm, managing a paltry 2.6 yards per pass attempt while also throwing three interceptions. If nothing else, Harris’ struggles on Saturday demonstrated that Carolina’s problems on offense go deeper than the quarterback position — the biggest problem remains all the key offensive personnel in street clothes, something that isn’t going to change in 2017. For now, growth from the young receivers and patchwork offensive line will have to be the emphasis throughout the remainder of the season.

DEFENSE WEARS DOWN

The UNC defense held firm through most of the contest on Saturday, but missed tackles and poor angles in key situations ultimately doomed the Tar Heels, most notably on an 81-yard catch-and-run by Virginia running back Olamide Zaccheaus but also on several critical third-down conversions.

Once again, the Carolina defense seems to have worn down late in the game, as the Heels allowed only 4.07 yards per play and 10 points through the first 42 minutes of the game but gave up 7.87 yards per play and another 10 points down the stretch.

FOOTBALL RECRUITING NEWS

Highly regarded Shelby linebacker Dax Hollifield made his official visit to UNC on Saturday, declaring to InsideCarolina afterwards that UNC leads in his recruitment over Stanford, Virginia Tech, Florida State, and South Carolina.

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