CHAPEL HILL — A year after playing most of the 2017 season with a roster depleted by an epidemic of injuries, the North Carolina football team will begin the new season equally as shorthanded.
Only this time, the wounds are self-inflicted.
Coach Larry Fedora announced Monday that 13 players, including quarterback Chazz Surratt and both starting defensive ends, have been suspended for their part in the sale of team-issued shoes.
In addition to Surratt, who is in competition for the starting job, defensive ends Malik Carney, Tomon Fox and Tyrone Hopper, offensive linemen Brian Anderson, Quiron Johnson and Jordan Tucker, wide receiver Beau Corrales and linebacker Malik Robinson will all be forced to sit out four games. Defensive backs Greg Ross and Tre Shaw will miss two games each, while quarterback Jack Davidson and offensive lineman Jonah Melton will be penalized for one.
Because several of the players play the same position, the NCAA has approved UNC’s request to stagger some of the suspensions. Carney will miss games against East Carolina, Central Florida, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech, while Fox will sit out games against Miami, Syracuse, Virginia and Georgia Tech.
All the their suspensions will begin with the season opener at California on Sept. 1.
The players affected will be allowed to continue practicing, attending meetings and doing strength and conditioning work during their suspensions.
“I am certainly upset by our players’ actions and how their choices reflect on them, our program and the University,” Fedora said, reading from a prepared statement. “These young men knew the rules and are being held responsible for the poor choices they have made. Accountability is an important core principle in this program. We will learn from this and aim to do better in the future.”
Athletic director Bubba Cunningham said that the sale of the shoes came to light as the result of a social media post. He said that university officials began investigating the situation within hours of becoming aware of it and self-reported the violations, which are considered secondary in nature, to the NCAA in February.
He said that all but nine pairs of the shoes that were originally issued to players, managers and staff members have been collected and are in the possession of the athletic department.
Though Cunningham said that he and others within the athletic department are disappointed with the situation, he praised UNC’s compliance office for its handling of the situation and said that the case will be closed as soon as the suspensions are served.
“We will continue to strive to get better,” Cunningham said. “We have to get our educational program better, we have to get better in so many different ways, encourage the students to make good decisions. We certainly made a mistake and we’ll have to suffer the consequences.”