They’re waiting in Columbia. They’re waiting in Chapel Hill. They’re waiting wherever the NCAA has come calling this summer, which means they’re waiting a lot of places. Teams are waiting to see just who can actually play in the season opener.
This isn’t a Washaun Ealey thing. (Ealey has been suspended for Georgia’s opener after being arrested on two misdemeanor charges.) This is bigger, and it bears deeper implications.
For reasons involving the agent-funded party in Miami and an cheaper-than-Priceline hotel stay at South Carolina to possible academic shenanigans at North Carolina, high-profile programs have been given reason to believe that some of their bigger names might not be, shall we say, fully eligible.
The price of trotting out a player found ineligible ex post facto could result in a “vacated” victory. And nobody wants that. (Except maybe John Calipari, the Kentucky coach who’s the king of the vacates. But that’s a different sport.)
South Carolina opens against Southern Mississippi on Thursday night. The Gamecocks are under scrutiny because some of its players stayed, for apparently less than the rack rate, at the Whitney. Steve Spurrier told Neil White of The State on Tuesday: “We haven’t heard anything [from the NCAA]. We should hear something this week. They usually tell you before the first game.”
Then this: “If we don’t hear anything, we’ll play everybody we’ve got.”
Then this: “Well, almost everybody we’ve got.” The reference was to tight end Weslye Saunders, who’s under investigation for possibly having received illegal benefits from an agent. So is defensive end Marcell Dareus of Alabama, which opens against San Jose State on Saturday. So are two North Carolina defenders, and the Tar Heels face a high-profile date with LSU beneath the Georgia Dome on Saturday night. And now the North Carolina tempest has widened to include academic issues.
Spurrier announced Tuesday, according to Chris Low of ESPN.com, that Saunders won’t play in Carolina’s opener. Quoth Spurrier: “He’s not on the team.”
It must be noted that these issues could have a clear and present impact on the local programs. Georgia plays at South Carolina on Sept. 11, and Georgia Tech visits North Carolina on Sept. 18. Both Carolinas could be missing some men, perhaps several men. For now, nobody knows and everybody waits. As North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates told the Associated Press: “We kind of want to know before[hand], going into the game. We kind of just want to have it set so we know who’s going to be playing.”
Trouble is, the Heels mightn’t like the answer. Stay tuned. (And, borrowing from Fox’s Chris Myers, I know you will.)