Friday, December 20, 2013

End Of P.J. Hairston's North Carolina Career Is Sad, But Reality

P.J Hairston will never play for North Carolina again.  For a recap of Hairston's trangressions, the short-short version is that Hairston was pinched three times during this past summer which triggered an investigation of improper benefits he may have received ... namely the use of a high-end SUV.  The school indefinitely suspended him pending a joint investigation between the university and the NCAA.  Today, it is announced that UNC will not file for Hairston's reinstatement.

What does that mean?  It means that there's just too much evidence against Hairston to bother.  I know that people like Hairston's family may have wanted the school to try anyway, but all it would have done was open a huge can of worms that would have further damaged the university as well as Hairston's character.  Since it was a joint investigation, the school knew where the verdict was heading before making an appeal.

This is one of the tougher stories that I've seen [disclosure: I am a North Carolina fan] regarding the Tar Heels.  It is one that has tested my belief in college athletic rules as well as punishment for players.  One that had my fight off my feelings of what is best for my team to what is best for the program.

When this all went down over the summer, I wanted Hairston gone.  I'm one of the old school Carolina fans who remember no problems in the athletic department.  Over the last decade, I've had to see the UNC football team embarrass every Tar Heel related as well as the academia of the university in on it as well.  I don't like that crap at all and if it meant forfeits, bowl bans and an overhaul of the department, so be it.

That is the climate of the fan base when this Hairston thing broke.  I wanted him out.  I wanted him away from the program.  I wanted the embarrassment to be punished.

Then I took a step back.  This is a 20 year old kid who made a bad mistake on two fronts.  On one front -- the laws we all must abide by -- which involved his speeding, weed possession and the rest of that stuff (that has since been dismissed).  The other front was the NCAA and their interest of that SUV he was driving.  The law is the law and he was dealt with (whether you agree with it or not).  The NCAA is a different story.

I wanted him gone ... but what does that do?  You took a 20-yr old that made a mistake and cast him out?  Instead of working with him we terminate a major source of structure in his life as well as his education?  While these are men in the legal sense, they are just college kids who do dumb stuff.  And truth be told, if some dude you knew told you it was cool to legally drive around a nice car you might take it.  Punishment, yes, but not expulsion.

The thing about mistakes is that they usually do have consequences.  And going by what we think we know now, Hairston may have compounded his mistakes by either lying or not being totally honest with the investigators.  The story we read wasn't the entire story.  There was more bad stuff that was uncovered (or the lying thing) that made the school stop and say that this fight isn't worth it anymore.

Hairston's family is upset about UNC's decision to not to file for reinstatement.  They feel that if the school really had their son's back then they would have gone through with the filing to see what happened.  I understand from their point of view but totally disagree with the logic.  The school had his back this whole time.  The school investigated this with the NCAA, kept him with the team and gave him the opportunity to gain their trust back.  But either the alley was too dark with secrets or filled with lies that the university couldn't go on any further.

Hairston broke too many rules that the NCAA and the university demanded he abide by.  The school didn't turn their back on him, he turned his back on the university.

The thing about attrition is that it can come too late.  You can be sorry all you want and have every intention of rectifying the situation but the damage is done.  I'm the first guy to blast the NCAA, but these aren't tough rules to follow.  And after the traffic stop with the alleged weed, possible gun and license problems, Hairston was on alert that there was big trouble on the horizon.  So about a month later, Hairston gets popped for speeding again.  Instead of walking gently on egg shells, he wore combat boots in the hen house.

I hate that this happened, but "it is what it is".  I was starting to have the feeling that Hairston really was remorseful and had been punished nearly enough (I was fine with a suspension until ACC play started).  But the longer this took, the more obvious that this wasn't going to end well.  While I hate not seeing him suit up for the Heels again, Hairston made this bed and he's the one who put his eligibility in question.  It is ultimately his fault.

His legacy at UNC (beyond this) is a guy who was right there for a break out.  His freshman year was noted for how off he was.  This great shooter just couldn't consistently find his stroke.  However, when he was inserted as a starter during his sophomore year, he was great.  He led the Heels in scoring and even flirted with the idea of going to the NBA (guess he wishes he did now).  With a young team lacking a proven scorer, this was set to be a huge year for Hairston.  All reports were that he was killing it in practice.  This was a huge opportunity for Hairston to have a big-time season, carry a legendary program and up his NBA draft stock.  Instead he blew his shot and may have this decision affect the rest of his life.

That's the saddest part.  Hairston should still get a shot in the NBA.  He's got an NBA body and huge range.  Guys like that can find a spot in the NBA.  With his recent track record, what he does there is anyone's guess.

I wish him well.  Despite this, he is always a Tar Heel and deserves our support even if he let us, the fans, down and let his teammates down.  While he can't get retribution at Carolina, I hope he truly does learn from this and makes an effort to make the best of his possible basketball career and the rest of his life.

Thanks for almost everything, P.J.

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