Message boards and radio shows lit up late in the night on Oct. 18 when several media outlets reported that Burney had been cleared to play after an Honor Court meeting, but the university announced two days later that Burney would not play against the Hurricanes, citing the unresolved issue.
Inside Carolina learned through sources familiar with the situation that Burney's Honor Court meeting involved pleading guilty to an academic charge in a class. He needed to retake that class to comply with a NCAA waiver that allowed him to participate this fall by taking only the necessary three hours in classwork required to graduate in December, but was ultimately unable to pick up the needed class.
North Carolina discussed Burney's situation with the NCAA and learned on Tuesday that he would be eligible to play on Saturday against William & Mary.
"I really don't know what happened, but I just feel that maybe somewhere down the line there was miscommunication between Kendric and the university," Tyrone Burney said. "… Kendric was thinking that they were going to be able to put him in the class once he got done with the Honor Court, but after talking with the compliance [officer], the class was full and it was in the middle of the semester, so they couldn't put him in the class."
Burney was scheduled to graduate in December, but the inability to pick up an online class this fall after the Honor Court proceedings has pushed his graduation back until next May. He will need three hours next semester to earn his degree.
"That's what he's got to do – there is no other class that he can take," Burney said.
The question on everyone's mind is how Burney went from believing that he was cleared to play on Oct. 18 and would graduate in December to missing the Miami game and learning that he would have to take an extra semester at UNC.
"That's what really disappointed me," Burney said. "First of all, I was disappointed in Kendric beyond a shadow of a doubt, but by the same token, what disappointed me with Carolina is that nothing was put into place. When you get this close to graduating, and then something like this happens, there was nothing ever put into place…
"That's what puzzled me – they knew this investigation had been going on forever how long. The best thing you can do is to look at the worst-case scenario and say, ‘Kendric, let's go ahead and put you in this class right here, and if everything works out, we can just take you out of the class because you won't need it."
Burney, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound cornerback from Jacksonville, N.C., was tabbed a 2010 second-team Preseason All-America by Sporting News and a 2010 Thorpe Award candidate after earning first-team All-ACC honors in '09 for totaling 47 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, one sack, five interceptions, one interception return for touchdown and one fumble recovery.
Those preseason prognastications now only serve as a reminder of what could have been as Burney prepares for the final five games of his Tar Heel career. The elder Burney indicated that his son has survived this roller coaster ride, although it hasn't been easy.
"He's kept his head up, but by the same token, he had his days that he just wanted it to be over with," Burney said. "He just wanted the days to speed up so that he could get to whatever the final verdict was going to be. One minute, you hear six games, and then the six games come and then there's something else. You're on a high when you get to that fifth game, and then you get to that sixth game and he's up and ready to go and looking forward to playing Miami.
"So when he got to that point, he hit a low again, and then finally he found out he couldn't play. He was sort of upset with the world, including me. He didn't want to hear what anybody had to say, so he shut himself down. But when he does that, you just give him a few days and he comes back around... But it's just an all-of-a-sudden thing that hits you and you don't know whether to go left, right or straight. You don't know who you can and can't trust."
The Burney's, as well as other families of players involved with the ongoing NCAA investigation, plan to meet with UNC officials after the season to discuss the situation and ask questions about what took place.
"It's not going to benefit us, as far as the questions that are going to be asked, but we're hoping that it will benefit somebody else," Burney said. "... It's a great university – one of the best there is in the country – and throughout everything. This is a learning experience for everybody. Even in a bad situation, something good is going to come out of it."