How Social Media Brought UNC and Chapel Hill To Its Knees

It started with a whisper, wait, sorry, that is the Neon Trees song. In all reality, it started with a tweet. Since early 2010 the University of North Carolina has been in the crosshairs of both the NCAA and every fan not wearing the Carolina Blue sunglasses. Names like Butch Davis, Marvin Austin, PJ Hairston and Rashad McCants have left a black eye on the once proud athletic department in Chapel Hill. When the investigations are complete and all is said and done most will look back on social media as the smoking gun that brought both UNC and Chapel Hill to its knees.

Marvin Austin and His Twitter

The Aftermath of Marvin Austin

PJ Hairston Just Doesn’t Learn

Rashad McCants and His Paper Classes

Marvin Austin and His Twitter

In the spring of 2010 Marvin Austin felt as if he was bigger than UNC. In his mind, he really was. He was the #1 defensive tackle recruit coming out of high school and he was a sure fire top 5 pick for the NFL draft. Marvin was just biding his time in Chapel Hill until he could be making millions in the NFL. Well, maybe he wasn’t in Chapel Hill. He should have been, but his Twitter proved otherwise.

On April 2nd, 2010 he tweeted this:


It is important to note that Marvin went to high school in Washington, DC so being in the nation’s capital is not out of the ordinary. What is out of the ordinary is the fact that it was April 23rd which is just before UNC finals. I guess Marvin was much more interested in “shopn” and being fresh than actually studying for finals. Shortly after finals Austin was hitting the Twitter game hard. This gem was published for the world to see:

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Notice that the time is 3:07 am on May 29th. Austin was “living in the club”. There are theories that this is a direct quote from the “Sweet Life” Rick Ross song. While there is some debate as to whether Austin was in Miami at a party on May 29th there is no debate that he and Greg Little were in Miami on May 10th, 2010. Here is the proof:


Do you see the common thread in this entire fiasco? Twitter! I would never condone college athletes taking money from boosters and hanging out with “entertainers” but all of this would have been a non issue had Austin and Little realized that the sports world was watching their Twitter accounts from afar.

Fast forward four months and Marvin Austin is suspended indefinitely by Butch Davis. During the first game of the season Marvin Austin was in the Georgia Dome, in the stands, wearing sunglasses. Austin was always too cool for school. The brief moment the camera was on him during the season opener versus LSU proved this to be true.


The 2010 season was expected to be one of the best in recent history for the Tar Heels as they had a stud defensive unit on paper. Some were predicting that UNC would have six or seven defensive players drafted in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. Unfortunately for UNC fans, they will never know what could have been. The year concluded with a Music City Bowl victory over Tennessee and an eight win season but the UNC athletic department would and never will be the same.

The Aftermath of Marvin Austin

At the conclusion of the 2010 season Butch Davis was fired. David still doesn’t understand why he was the fall guy. The off the field issues with “paper classes” and Miami parties was too much for the UNC athletic department to swallow. Twitter, Facebook and online blogs were ratings gold during the NCAA investigations. When the NCAA completed their first round of investigations the Tar Heels were banned from the bowl season for one year and lost a handful of scholarships. In all reality, a slap on the wrist.

During the entire debacle no one took a drive down Ridge Road, continued onto Skipper Bowles Dr and questioned the other revenue generator for the athletic department – the esteemed UNC basketball program. Roy Williams had just won a national title in 2009 and there is no way “paper classes” or improper conduct could happen on that side of Manning Drive. The athletes on the football team were getting undeserved grades, but that would never happen with the basketball team. Anyone not wearing the Carolina Blue sundress was skeptical but the UNC administration and athletic department made sure to sweep it under the rug.

PJ Hairston Just Doesn’t Learn

Fast forward a few years and enter the summer of 2013. PJ Hairston was voted the most popular athlete on campus the the UNC basketball team is expected to make a Final Four run during the upcoming season. One of the reasons PJ was so loved by the student body was the fact that he often had to come off the bench as the sixth man. The students believed in PJ and he relished in the underdog role. By the end of the season most fans and journalists agreed that PJ Hairston was the best player on the UNC basketball team. What they didn’t mention was his off the court issues.

On June 5th, 2013 Hairston was arrested for drug possession and driving without a license. It is important to note that those charges were later dropped. Even though the charges were dropped he was still playing with fire and was later burned. After the June 5th arrest Hairston was to be internally punished by Roy Williams and staff. There was no mention of a suspension. Well, that was until July 29th when Hairston was cited for doing 93 in a 65.

After the speeding citation the athletic department suspended Hairston indefinitely. UNC decided they were going to investigate Hairston further before going to the NCAA. After much deliberation UNC decided to suspend Hairston for the entire season rather than let the NCAA get involved. I wonder why? Maybe they were worried the NCAA might dig up some more “paper classes” or improper conduct? Were they worried that the basketball team was not as squeaky clean as the media made them out to be?

Interestingly, UNC students went to Twitter to “Free PJ”. There was even a hashtag #FreePJ. One of the saddest things about this story is the fact that the students have yet to realize that going to Twitter with anything related to UNC athletics is the worst thing to do. Those that are attending classes at UNC don’t seem to remember the Marvin Austin and Greg Little Twitter drama.


On July 7th, 2014 it was reported that Josh Gordon, wide receiver of the Cleveland Browns was arrested for DWI. Take a wild guess as to whose car he was driving. You got it. PJ Hairston’s. Hairston was drafted in the first round by the Charlotte Hornets after he sat out his senior season. Unfortunately his off the court actions have not changed. In July of 2014 he punched a high school student in a pickup game of basketball in Durham. Some people will never learn.

Rashad McCants and His Paper Classes

In 2005 Rashad McCants was one of the most popular players on the UNC basketball. He helped to lead the Tar Heels to a national title and his #32 jersey now hangs in the rafters on the Dean E. Smith Center. On June 6th, 2014 the relationship between UNC and Rashad McCants was severed forever. McCants publicly stated and proved that he made the Deans List during the second semester of his junior year. He claims that he made the Deans List having attended zero classes.


“Paper classes” were courses in the Afro American History (AFAM) department that were created to help athletes stay eligible. Speaking from personal experience, I know athletes that are still taking these classes to “bring their GPA up”. I will not name names but I know, at least, three athletes that took spring 2014 and first summer session 2014 classes in the AFAM department. These were not “paper classes”, but the athletes laughed when I asked how difficult they were. Take it as you will.

McCants went to ESPN to tell his story. He mentioned failing two classes in the fall semester of 2004 and making the Deans List with all A’s in the spring of 2005. He has his transcript to prove it. From the beginning, my question has been, “why would McCants tell the world he didn’t go to class?” What does he have to gain? Maybe he wants to sell a book? Maybe he just wants to get back in the spotlight? I honestly don’t know. One thing is certain, UNC fans have turned on Rashad. Here is a photo from a local Chapel Hill restaurant on Franklin Street.


What I do know is that a handful of UNC athletes have made very bad decisions. Most of these decisions have reached wildfire status on social media. For some comic relief, follow Julius Hodge on Twitter as he thoroughly enjoys tweeting from the perspective of a former ACC athlete – an ACC basketball player of the year. As the UNC and Chapel Hill saga continues to turn I will be sure to update my perspective from the ground floor. Living just three miles from campus I am able to consume it from within. Trust me when I tell you that the aura of the UNC athletic department is much different today, July 2014, than it was after that national championship in April of 2009.

Categories: College Basketball

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