The story of North Carolina star P.J. Hairston’s offseason driving adventures gets worse by the day for both Hairston and the Tar Heels.
What we know, thanks to USA Today’s Eric Prisbell’s reporting, is that Hairston got behind the wheel of a car rented by a convicted felon at least one time. He also got behind the wheel of a car rented by a woman who lives with that convicted felon another time.
That convicted felon, Haydn Thomas, and the woman who shares his address, Catinia Farrington, spent $15,020.35 on vehicle rentals between Feb. 14 and June 25 at a Hertz location at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, Prisbell reported on Tuesday.
Prisbell also reported on Tuesday that those rented cars have received nine parking citations from UNC campus police since February.
So someone, or several someones, have been driving those cars around the UNC campus quite regularly.
Let's review the two occasions that have been documented that had Hairston driving the rented cars, which occurred on June 5 and May 13.
- This started when Hairston and two passengers were arrested and charged by Durham police for possession of marijuana on June 5. Hairston also was charged for driving without a license, and a 9-millimeter handgun was found outside the car. That car, Prisbell reported, was rented by Thomas, a convicted felon and party promoter.
- Prisbell reported over the weekend that Hairston was cited for speeding on May 13 driving a car rented by Farrington, who shares the same Durham address as Thomas.
But that’s all just pure coincidence.
"I don't know P.J. Hairston," Thomas told Prisbell last week. "I know Miykael (Faulcon), his friend. I don't know anyone at Carolina. I don't even like the Carolina team. Look at the age disparity between me and those boys. I could be their father."
Prisbell, on Tuesday, tweeted this:
Thomas either has something to hide or gets really confused by the details, and it has left two important questions regarding the eligibility of Hairston:
- Why is Hairston driving around cars rented by a convicted felon?
- What is the relationship between Thomas and Hairston?
Both these questions will need to be answered and then interpreted by the NCAA. The fact that Hairston is driving a car rented by someone else is a possible NCAA violation, but it depends on the genesis of his relationship with Thomas.
NCAA by-law 16.02.3 on extra benefits states:
Receipt of a benefit by student-athletes or their relatives or friends is not a violation of NCAA legislation if it is demonstrated that the same benefit is generally available to the institution’s students or their relatives or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g., international students, minority students) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability.
The second NCAA by-law in play here is 220.127.116.11:
An institutional employee or representative of the institution’s athletics interests may not provide a student-athlete with extra benefits or services, including, but not limited to: [R]
(a) A loan of money;
(b) A guarantee of bond;
(c) An automobile or the use of an automobile
Despite the shadiness of why a man would spend thousands of dollars renting cars, that’s not important for the NCAA.
What the NCAA needs to know is the motivation for Thomas allowing Hairston to drive those cars.
Is Hairston simply a friend? Would Hairston still be an acquaintance if he was a UNC student on the chess team?
Hairston could be in trouble if Thomas’ motivation is to benefit from their relationship. Thomas could be deemed a “representative of the institution’s athletic interests” if he is a fan hooking Hairston up because he’s on the basketball team.
There is so much gray area in this case that Hairston could dodge the NCAA, but Roy Williams cannot dodge it.
Last month, Williams told Prisbell:
The good thing is, I don't have to make a decision right now because we're in summer school, fall semester has not started, basketball has not started. We're going to wait and see what happens. I've got some ideas, but right now those ideas are staying in my mind. I am waiting until all the facts come in and then I will take care of everything that needs to be taken care of.
It’s tough to blame Williams for waiting, but there are now enough details out there now that he has reason to suspend Hairston indefinitely.
The worst-case scenario is Hairston loses his eligibility and UNC is also penalized. We're a long way from that, because there's still not enough information. That's why it’s understandable that Williams would not want to hand out a punishment that he couldn't take back.
The Tar Heels would be hurt without Hairston. But they are also hurt by the bad press that continues to come out with this story.
It’s hard to control the situation when the only one talking is a convicted felon who left a messy paper trail.