Chris Johnson is an RTC Columnist. He can be reached @ChrisDJohnsonn.
The P.J. Hairston saga has all the makings of a classic amateurism bombshell. The shady third-party handler vaguely accused of providing money and/or gifts to a college athlete. A star player from one of the most esteemed college sports brands in the country. A drug charge. A loaded firearm and ammunition found outside of an obscurely rented vehicle. The evidence-based suspicion of broader corruption among program athletes. An apparent academic scandal simmering in the backdrop. The amateurism debate reaching flood stage in the public discourse. A high-profile lawsuit challenging amateurism’s very existence. The convenience of the Johnny Manziel saga. It’s all too timely and salacious and interesting, but here’s the thing: We haven’t even come close to reaching the finish line. Hairston was indefinitely suspended from UNC basketball after being ticketed for speeding on July 28, his third reported traffic citation of the summer, and all charges related to his July 5 traffic stop have been dropped. Hairston won’t be punished by the legal system, but that was never the biggest part of his summer saga, anyway.
No, the most concerning aspect of Hairston’s malfeasance is the status of his eligibility heading into a season in which North Carolina is expected to compete for a conference championship with the junior expected to shoulder the bulk of the point-producing load and solidify UNC’s otherwise shaky defensive perimeter. He may not be able to do any of that if the NCAA finds the vehicles he drove this summer were rented out to Hairston impermissibly, or if any of his dealings with local party promoter and convicted felon Haydn ‘Fats’ Thomas are deemed in violation of the organization’s confusing (and highly controversial) amateurism rules. More than two months out from the start of the 2013-14 college hoops season, Hairston’s future with the Tar Heels hangs in the balance. His status for the upcoming season is just as mysterious as all the plot twists and legal nuance that brought us to this point.