P.J. Hairston ties in question

Updated: July 10, 2013, 10:43 AM ET
By Eamonn Brennan | ESPN.com

North Carolina Tar Heels star P.J. Hairston was cited for speeding May 13 while driving a rental car registered to a woman with the same address as Haydn Thomas, a convicted felon who rented the vehicle Hairston was driving when he was arrested on marijuana possession charges June 5, USA Today Sports has reported, citing records obtained by the newspaper.

The speeding citation occurred while Hairston was driving a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro SS paid for by Catinia Farrington, whose Durham, N.C., address matched Thomas' on Hertz rental car receipts acquired by USA Today this weekend.

A public records search by ESPN.com confirmed Thomas and Farrington's shared address.

Durham residents Miykael Faulcon and Carlos Sanford were passengers in the 2013 GMC Yukon Hairston was driving when police stationed at a traffic checkpoint found a 9-millimeter handgun, nine rounds of ammunition and a half-ounce of marijuana outside the vehicle June 5.

All three passengers were charged with marijuana possession and released on $1,000 unsecured bail. Hairston was also cited for driving without a license.

Last Wednesday, Thomas -- who was convicted on a felony charge of accessing computers in 2006 -- told the newspaper he did not know Hairston, that he was not a North Carolina booster and was not connected to any sports agents, and that his friend, Durham resident Faulcon, had borrowed the automobile when the June 5 arrest occurred.

At the time, North Carolina sports information director Steve Kirschner told ESPN.com in an email that UNC coach Roy Williams and athletic director Bubba Cunningham were "aware" of the situation and would "issue a statement when we have enough information to do so." On Tuesday, Williams told Durham ABC affiliate WTVD that he wouldn't comment until "all the facts are in."

According to a report in USA Today, four rental vehicles that are linked to Thomas have received a total of nine parking citations on North Carolina's campus between Feb. and May.

"The athletic department compliance staff and I are fully aware of recent media accounts related to our men's basketball team," Cunningham said Wednesday morning in a statement. "We take these matters very seriously and are looking into these reports and the inferences they contain with all due diligence. It is my practice not to comment on the individuals involved or the details surrounding these reports until we have sufficient understanding of the facts involved." 

An NCAA spokesman told ESPN.com that the membership's rules prevent the organization from commenting on potential investigations.

"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 in the news release. "Where the facts show mistakes in judgment and/or actions, Coach Williams will take and I will support the appropriate disciplinary measures. The integrity of the University of North Carolina is of paramount concern to all of us and is the principle on which Coach Williams and the athletic department operate each and every day. The most responsible course of action, however, is to withhold judgment and comment until we are confident we have the facts to do so. I appreciate everyone's understanding of that and we will bring these matters to resolution as soon as possible."

The latest report connects at least one more rental vehicle between Hairston and Thomas' residence. The Camaro cost Farrington and Thomas a total of $5,717.47 during two separate rental periods lasting from March 25 through April 15 and April 25 through June 17, according to the USA Today report. Hairston is due in court Aug. 2 to address the speeding citation.

NCAA bylaw 16.02.3 ("Extra Benefits") prohibits "any special arrangement by an institutional employee or a representative of the institution's athletics interest to provide a student-athlete or the student-athlete's relatives or friends a benefit not expressly authorized by NCAA legislation."

Additionally, "receipt of a benefit by student-athletes, 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, relatives or friends or to a particular segment of the student body (e.g. foreign students, minority students, etc.) determined on a basis unrelated to athletics ability."

Hairston, a rising junior who this spring considered the NBA draft before deciding to return to Chapel Hill, led the 2012-13 Tar Heels in scoring with 14.6 points per game.

ESPN.com senior writer Andy Katz contributed to this report.

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