North Carolina athletics director Bubba Cunningham said Wednesday university officials are still gathering information related to a controversy that has embroiled P.J. Hairston, the Tar Heels’ junior guard and leading scorer last season.
Cunningham and other UNC officials, including coach Roy Williams, have remained mostly silent since Durham police arrested Hairston on June 5 and charged him with misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving without a license.
A 9 mm gun was found outside the car, but Durham police said in a statement they do not anticipate additional charges in the case.
Hairston was driving a 2013 GMC Yukon, which was rented from Hertz by Haydn “Fats” Thomas, a convicted felon with a lengthy criminal record.
The connection between Thomas, 39, and Hairston has emerged as a central question. Before that arrest, Hairston also received a speeding ticket on May 13 while driving a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro rented by Catinia Farrington, who co-owns a house in Durham with Thomas.
In addition to the question of why Hairston has driven vehicles rented by a convicted felon facing drug and gun charges, the other question central to the case is whether he has committed an NCAA violation. If he is found to have received impermissible benefits, a portion or all of his eligibility could be in jeopardy for the 2013-14 season.
Cunningham, in a statement released by the school, didn’t mention Hairston by name, but said “The athletic department compliance staff and I are fully aware of recent media accounts related to our men’s basketball team. We take these matters very seriously and are looking into these reports and the inferences they contain with all due diligence.”
The Yukon and Camaro Hairston drove are two of many rental cars linked to Thomas that have shown up on UNC’s campus.
Cars rented by Thomas or Farrington were frequently on campus between February and May. According to university records, there are nine outstanding parking tickets totaling $315 tied to four vehicles rented by the pair.
A GMC Yukon Thomas rented from Feb. 14 to March 5 was cited on Feb. 21 for an expired meter and Feb. 22 for not having a valid permit. The car was driven 10 miles during the 19-day rental period, according to the receipt, and cost $1,477.72.
A 2012 Chevrolet Camaro rented by Thomas and Farrington on two occasions was ticketed twice, on April 15 and 28, for not having a valid permit. Thomas rented the car from March 25 through April 15. Farrington had the car April 25-June 17. While the two rented the Camaro, it was driven 6,470 miles and cost $5,717.47.
A Chevrolet Tahoe rented by Thomas April 18-May 2 for $1,700.46 was ticketed May 1 for not having a valid permit.
And a Mercedes-Benz 350 rented by Thomas was ticketed four times by UNC police: May 22 for an expired meter and for not having a valid permit, May 23 for an expired meter and May 28 for not having a valid permit.
Thomas rented the Mercedes May 8-30 and put 2,200 miles on it. The bill came to $2,725.28.
From Feb. 14 through June 25, Thomas rented 14 cars from five locations: Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Palm Beach (Fla.) International Airport, Miami International Airport, New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport.
At one point, Thomas had cars rented from Raleigh and New York. The total for his rentals during the four-month period was $16,883.43. Combined with Farrington’s rental of the Camaro, the total is $20,132.43.
Amid the controversy, UNC officials have consistently said they are gathering facts. Cunningham’s statement was the most in-depth response yet. It remains unclear what discipline Hairston might face from the university.
“We are still gathering information, learning information from other sources, and we will not comment until we have a strong grasp of each individual situation,” Cunningham said. “Where the facts show mistakes in judgment and/or actions, coach Williams will take and I will support the appropriate disciplinary measures.”
Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter