CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — P.J. Hairston’s career is over at North Carolina.
The school said Friday that it won’t seek Hairston’s reinstatement from the NCAA after the junior committed several rule violations. Hairston hasn’t played all season while the school and NCAA worked to resolve eligibility questions stemming from the use of cars linked to a felon and party promoter earlier this year.
Coach Roy Williams said Friday it was “probably the most difficult and saddest thing I’ve ever gone through as a head coach.”
The news came two days after the school announced the NCAA had cleared senior Leslie McDonald to return after missing the first nine games due to related violations.
“We tried to do everything we could possibly do to get both kids back playing,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham said. “… We had enough information that we all agreed upon with the university and the NCAA to submit reinstatement for Leslie, but we just didn’t have it for P.J.”
Hairston led the team in scoring last year and is a dangerous outside shooter. He flirted with entering the NBA draft before deciding to return, yet he never made it back on the court. He has practiced as a reserve, including Friday after the announcement, and sat on the bench for home games.
Hairston’s family said in a statement that he would decide on his plans in coming weeks while wishing the No. 14 Tar Heels continued success.
“We are displeased with the University of North Carolina’s decision not to submit the necessary paperwork to the NCAA requesting to have P.J. reinstated,” the family said. “This process has been long, and for to end without having a final decision from the governing body is a shame.”
Cunningham didn’t release specifics, including when asked how much Hairston had received nor whether Hairston had been honest with investigators.
Authorities twice cited Hairston during the offseason while driving rental vehicles linked to Haydn Patrick “Fats” Thomas of Durham to raise the possibility of improper benefits violations.
McDonald’s reinstatement letter sheds light on Hairston’s case, saying McDonald occasionally drove two rental vehicles – a 2012 Chevrolet Camaro that Hairston was driving when he was cited for speeding in May and a 2013 Mercedes 350 – tied to Thomas as well as a 2008 Audi A4 “associated” with Thomas.
The letter states McDonald shared access to the vehicles with another UNC student-athlete whose name is redacted, as well as Hairston’s friend — Elizabeth City State player Miykael Faulcon, who missed the first nine games before returning Thursday — and non-athletes.
According to the letter, the unnamed player was charged with using the vehicles 75 percent of the time he and McDonald had possession of them.
The school has since adjusted the amount of McDonald’s improper benefits that he’s required to repay to charity, increasing it by about $100 to $1,883.46. The value for McDonald’s end of using the shared vehicles and associated unpaid parking tickets is $1,157.50, putting the unnamed player’s usage on that part alone to at least $3,472.50.
Bill Thomas, a Durham-based attorney for Fats Thomas, said his client met with school officials Dec. 10 for “an in-depth interview …. to clear up any misconception about the relationship between Haydn Thomas and Mr. Hairston.” Bill Thomas said he invited NCAA officials “but they elected not to participate.”
Fats Thomas said Friday night he told UNC officials that Faulcon had access to the vehicles and the players apparently shared them among themselves. He said he believed the matter “was blown way out of proportion” and that he was disappointed by the school’s decision.
“Like I told UNC’s lawyers, I don’t have a relationship with P.J. Hairston,” he said. “I do have a relationship with his friend, Miykael Faulcon, who had access to those vehicles. Boys will be boys and they hang out together, so I don’t know.”
Hairston was first cited for speeding in May while driving the Camaro rented under the name of a woman sharing the Thomas’ home address. Less than a month later, Hairston was arrested in Durham along with Faulcon and another passenger, and charged with misdemeanor marijuana possession while driving a 2013 GMC Yukon rented under Thomas’ name.
Hairston’s drug charge was dismissed in July after he completed a drug assessment program. But nine days later, authorities cited Hairston for driving 93 mph in a 65-mph zone along Interstate 85 in Salisbury while driving a 2008 Acura owned by a friend, Randi Lee Furr.
Williams suspended Hairston indefinitely that day before letting him practice with the team in preseason as the “first step toward permanently earning his place back on the roster.”
The No. 14 Tar Heels beat highly ranked Michigan State, Kentucky and Louisville without Hairston and McDonald. McDonald scored 15 points with four 3-pointers in his return Wednesday, an 86-83 loss to Texas.
North Carolina plays Davidson on Saturday.