Holmes and Johnson issued this joint statement:
"First, we appreciate the University's help in the appeal process. We thought our administrative staff made a great argument on our behalf. Obviously, this is a lesson to every student-athlete about the importance of clearing things with your compliance staff. We were just trying to help out a great cause and didn©ˆt understand the harm of playing in a charity event. We want to thank the NCAA for taking a serious and fair look at our individual case. This is something we have been dealing with for a while. Now we can focus completely on Penn State and the rest of the season."
Holmes and Johnson participated in a one-day, 3-on-3 basketball tournament to raise money for cancer research. They each paid the $10 entry fee to participate in the fundraiser and received no prize money or other gifts for participating. The event was run by the Carolina Cancer Focus, a student organization.
UNC's compliance office became aware of the student-athletes' participation after the event and declared them ineligible per NCAA regulations. NCAA rules prohibit men's basketball student-athletes from participating in outside competition.
UNC asked the NCAA to restore their eligibility, which the NCAA did, along with adding a one-game suspension. On Friday, Carolina officials appealed the suspension in a conference call to the NCAA's Division I Committee on Student-Athlete Reinstatement.
"We believe we made a strong case that even though they participated in the event, the tournament was so informal it did not meet the definition of outside competition," says Dick Baddour, Director of Athletics. "The games were halfcourt and players called their own fouls. That's less formal than intramural games. Jon and Will certainly did not intend to break an NCAA rule; they were acting as good citizens and spirited members of the student body by helping those less fortunate than themselves. I appreciate the NCAA staff's and committee's work in this process.
"I am happy for Jon and Will," says head coach Matt Doherty. "They are our captains and have worked so hard preparing for the start of their senior seasons. They would have been missed Monday. We already had the youngest team in school history. I commend the NCAA for looking at their situation on an individual basis. Jon and Will are great examples of what NCAA student-athletes are all about."
The Tar Heels open play in the first round of the Owens Corning NIT against Penn State on Monday at 7 p.m. The game will be played in the Smith Center and televised nationally on ESPN2.