CHAPEL HILL — Thirteen North Carolina football players were suspended Monday for the NCAA violations they committed by selling their school-issued athletic shoes last spring. Only one, Malik Carney, made himself available to the media to explain his “wrong decision” and the effect it will have on the Tar Heels’ season.
Although the senior defensive end declined to go into specifics about sale of his Carolina Blue Retro Air Jordan 3s, he took responsibility for his actions — chalking his transgression up to an immature lack of judgment.
“I just wasn’t thinking about it,” Carney said. “In a moment like that, you’re not really thinking about the consequences. Like as a kid when your mom tells you not to touch the iron because it’s hot, you don’t really think that it’s hot. You just do it. It’s something you don’t really think about in the moment. I made a wrong decision.”
It’s a decision that will cost Carney four games of his final college season. Although he will be allowed to play in UNC’s season opener at California on Sept. 1, he will have to sit out the next four games, against East Carolina, Central Florida, Pittsburgh and Miami, as punishment. Fellow starting defensive end Tomon Fox was also assessed a four-game suspension, to be served against against Miami, Syracuse, Virginia and Georgia Tech.
Six other players — quarterback Chazz Surratt, defensive and Tyrone Hopper, offensive linemen Brian Anderson, Quiron Johnson and Jordan Tucker, wide receiver Beau Corrales and linebacker Malik Robinson — will also miss the season’s first four games. Defensive backs Greg Ross and Tre Shaw were suspended for the first two games each while quarterback Jack Davidson and offensive lineman Jonah Melton were penalized one each.
“I was disappointed, but I’ve been coaching for over 30 years,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said.. “These are young men. They don’t all make the best decisions every day of their life. That’s our job as coaches is to teach them and to make sure they understand that life’s about choices, and the choices that you make in life, there are consequences to those choices.”
Carney, who led the team with 5.5 sacks and 12.0 tackles for loss last season, wasn’t surprised by the suspensions, saying that he was expecting the worst. That didn’t make the NCAA’s decision any easier to take when it came down last week.
Upon learning of his punishment from Fedora, the Alexandria, Va., native offered an emotional apology to his teammates in the locker room. He said it was an important gesture, both as a cautionary tale for the younger players on the roster and to remind his fellow Tar Heels that the season isn’t lost because of a little adversity.
He said he decided to talk to the media Monday so he could begin the process of moving forward and preparing for the season.
“I wanted to get all the questions out of the way so we can move forward and leave this situation in the past,” he said.
Despite not being able to contribute on the field for four early season games, Carney said he plans to do whatever he can to help his team.
“Nothing changes,” he said. “I’m still a leader on the team. I still encourage guys to do better and still push guys. Personal goals don’t change, team goals don’t change. It’s next man up. That’s what it is.”