The North Carolina Tar Heels' win over Oakland last Friday brought tremendous relief to a program and fan base that suffered through an excruciating offseason of negative headlines. UNC started the season with a bang, as James Michael McAdoo jacked Oakland's first pass off the opening tip, scored and completed the and-1.
The Tar Heels went on to score 58 points on 74.2 percent shooting that half.
Despite a sub-par second half, it was a great day for everyone with passion for Carolina basketball. Everyone except the two young men sporting their Sunday best on the sideline.
The day before the opening game, it was announced that P.J. Hairston and Leslie McDonald would be held out of the season opener due to "ongoing compliance issues" that arose early this summer. If it feels like it has been half a year since allegations first arose, well, you're pretty close.
It's been over five months since Hairston's arrest that prompted investigations by journalists and rival fans, looking for anything to tie the junior Tar Heel star to car rentals by Haydn "Fats" Thomas. A month later, UNC sent a cease-and-desist letter to Iceberg Guards for listing McDonald as a customer.
Five months for Hairston. Four months for McDonald.
What's the delay on the decision for these two guys? At this point, it doesn't seem like the NCAA or anyone else will be able to find sufficient evidence to suspend them.
Let's start with the facts.
Hairston was busted for speeding twice this summer, which is undeniable. He was also arrested during a traffic stop, but those charges were later dismissed. In two of those instances, he was driving a car that had been rented by someone else.
That's where the facts end and speculation begins. Any "evidence" that has been uncovered since has been circumstantial or simply hearsay—as was the case with Trudy Ransom's statements to the NCAA.
How is the mother of Miykael Faulcon, who was in the car with Hairston at the traffic stop, anymore reliable than, say, Hairston's mother?
Especially after Ransom's public outcry of injustice on Twitter when her son was given probation, while Hairston walked. She recently deleted her Twitter account, but this screenshot was taken by a Twitter user that would like to preserve anonymity:
Hairston had already presented his license and completed a drug assessment. Faulcon's charges would be dropped if he completed 10 hours of community service and a drug assessment.
Why didn't he already complete the assessment?
It should also be noted that Faulcon was charged in March of 2011 for assault on a female and the following May for loitering, according to Andrew Carter of the News & Observer. Those charges were later dropped, but that doesn't mean they didn't weigh on the judge's decision.
The proof is simply not there, no matter how far anyone tries to reach.
Then there is the situation with McDonald, which has been mostly under the radar to this point. He was photographed wearing a custom UNC Iceberg mouth guard last season and was listed as a customer on the company's website.
Is there any evidence he was given the mouth guard?
The company promptly removed his name from the list. That should be enough, according to former compliance officer David Ridpath. "If the company complies (with the letter), it's usually a non-issue from there on out," he told ESPN.
As ESPN's Jay Bilas uncovered this summer, only the NCAA is allowed to use names of student athletes for its benefit.
And how is the evidence against Hairston any different than what the NCAA had on Johnny Manziel earlier this summer?
ESPN's Outside the Lines first broke the story on August 5 that Texas A&M's Heisman Trophy winner had accepted thousands of dollars for signing autographs for known sports memorabilia dealers (h/t USA Today). There were photos of him signing the autographs and accusations from multiple dealers.
Twenty-four days later, the NCAA handed Manziel a half-game suspension. A joint statement from the NCAA and Texas A&M said there was no evidence that he received payment for the autographs.
What's the difference between these two cases?
Auburn allowed Newton to play through the investigation, while picking up a national title and a Heisman Trophy along the way. After 13 long months, he was cleared. So was the university.
All the evidence, other than the facts previously listed, can be twisted in either direction, turning an investigation into an evenly matched game of tug of war—stagnant and pointless. That's what happens when nothing is concrete.
And it only drags on if someone doesn't put their foot down. The NCAA doesn't care if he sits. It will happily strip a player's eligibility for playing in a church league. No, really. This is not a joke.
Just ask Nathan Harries.
Someone has to step in, and that only leaves the University of North Carolina. Roy Williams would probably jump on a grenade for his kids, but he is powerless right now.
It's the university that has to tell the NCAA to kick rocks.
Then Coach Williams can give Hairston whatever suspension he deems necessary for the run-ins with the law and that's the end of the story. McDonald should be able to play immediately.
It's that simple.
McDonald, without a doubt, is in his last season as a Tar Heel, as he is a fifth-year senior. Hairston is just a junior, but most of us figured he wouldn't pass up the NBA for a third time following the 2013-14 season. And both are wasting away their Chapel Hill days on the bench, while waiting for someone—anyone—to make a decision on their eligibility.
Still, they wait.