Examining the PJ Hairston Situation- Best-Case and Worst-Case Scenarios
By now, the case of North Carolina guard PJ Hairston has been well publicized. Hairston, the Tar Heel’s leading scorer and top returner from 2012-2013, was caught earlier this month driving without a license, in possession of marijuana and with a 9mm firearm and nine rounds of ammunition outside of his rental car in nearby Durham. That was probably enough to earn him a huge suspension from Coach Roy Williams. But it turns out that was only the beginning.
Now the NCAA is involved, and they’re investigating Hairston’s relationship with NBA agent Rodney Blackstock, the same man behind the whole Ben McLemore-Kansas eligibility scandal. That alone, should be enough for North Carolina fans to take notice. The NCAA has already developed quite the case against this guy. Yet unlike McLemore, Hairston’s and Blackstock’s relationship goes way back to their hometown of Greensboro, NC. Will that make a difference? Should it make a difference?
While there’s nothing wrong with having friends, in the NCAA’s eyes, old friends, especially old friends who happen to be agents, are bad news. They can’t take you out to dinner, take you to school, or even take your suit to the dry cleaners. Those are infractions. So now, in addition to the many legal questions surrounding Hairston’s situation, his relationship to Blackstock will be examined from every possible angle by the NCAA. Remember the UNC football scandal? This could take a while.
It’s exactly what the Tar Heels don’t need right now. When it finally seemed like they were getting past all of the Butch Davis mess, a whole new investigation begins. Not only is it a distraction to the school and an embarrassment to the fans, but it’s also extremely untimely for Hairston’s teammates. His actions were selfish, immature, and quite frankly, inexcusable. Now he might be off the team entirely. This isn’t what Roy Williams had in mind for a year that Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame entered the league.
But it’s been weeks since the charges first came out and the silence continues. What’s next for UNC? In addition to the extent of Hairston’s relationship with Blackstock, Tar Heel fans are left wondering a few things-
1) Who is the owner of the gun?
It was found outside the vehicle at the checkpoint. Was it thrown out there quickly by Hairston, or one of the passengers? Or was it just a strange and unfortunate coincidence and they were in the wrong place at the wrong time? Gun control is a hot button issue right now, and you can bet that UNC, Coach Roy Williams and the Durham police want to take a hard-line stance against potentially illegal gun ownership and use.
2) Who rented the rental car?
Hairston and his passengers are not of legal age to rent a car. So who got them the nice SUV? Was it Blackstock? Was it a booster? The name on the rental agreement could play a huge role in determining Hairston’s eligibility. The NCAA is not a fan of gifts of any type, especially perks like cars. That’s the type of stuff that they’ve claimed to fight against for years.
It’s possible that these questions have already been answered. If the results were better than expected, Williams could just be waiting for the NCAA’s decision to hand down his punishment on Hairston. He’s already said he’s waiting for all the facts. Or, it’s possible that the results were worse than expected, and North Carolina already has the team of lawyers from the Butch Davis scandal hard at work. Time will tell. Since we don’t really know what’s going to happen, let’s look at the best case and worst case scenario for North Carolina in this situation.
Best Case Scenario
The marijuana, gun and ammunition were proven to be one of the passengers, and the rental car was found to have no connection to UNC at all. The NCAA determines that Blackstock and Hairston have a typical friendship, and decide that there is nothing out-of-the-ordinary going on. The Tar Heels have a great season, beating all of the ACC-newcomers, rival NC State twice, and Duke once. They go on to beat Kansas in the National Championship. Citing how much he “loves school,” James Michael McAdoo returns for his senior season after being crowned co-ACC Player of the Year with a much improved and more mature Hairston. NBA executives are impressed by his change of character, and Hairston is a lottery pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.
Worst Case Scenario
The marijuana, gun and ammunition are tied directly to Hairston, and the police uncover a plot where he intended on commiting an act of violence. The NCAA finds out that Blackstock rented the car for Hairston and his friends, and decide that he’s “too close” to the program. In their digging they find other major and minor violations and give UNC the death penalty. Games are forfeited, scholarships lost, and the team is put on probation. Williams is forced to start a larger, but inexperienced lineup, and the team fails to win 20 games, losing in the first round of the NIT. His legacy, and the school’s legacy are greatly tarnished. Lots of people are fired and Duke wins the National Championship. Coach K signs on to stay through 2030. Leslie McDonald suffers a career-ending ACL tear, and JP Tokoto and Joel James transfer at the end of the season. An era of success comes to a close.
Both of these situations are highly theoretical, but at this point, who knows? As a Tar Heel fan and graduate, I can only hope for justice, a fair investigation and for everything to blow over quickly. If there is fault on UNC’s part, I certainly hope that it’s revealed. The football scandal embarrassed me in ways that I can’t describe, and it’s painful to see this happen to my school. But I hope that things aren’t as bad as they seem. In the end, perhaps Hairston will learn a lesson that he can apply as a leader on this year’s team. We certainly need the help. But as with any situation involving a player, I hope first-and-foremost not for my team’s success, but for Hairston to grow as an individual. It’s a shame to see so much talent wasted by poor decision making skills.