Well, the downside to an NCAA investigation appears to be deeper than we initially thought. The probe into North Carolina Tar Heels players Marvin Austin and Greg Little (for the Miami party) opened up some interesting insights into the tutor program at UNC. You can catch the press conference here in the WRAL embed, though it's almost 100% politicspeak, especially once the Q&A begins:
Short story: one tutor may have given improper aid to football players. This particular tutor appears to have already graduated/left as all references are to her former work (and not in that 'we just canned her 15 minutes ago' kind of way).
But the investigation may deflate much of the argument against ducking North Carolina.
For one, as of the time I write this, only four of the starting defensive players were cleared. The remaining seven could all be potentially removed from the team (at worst), and two already have been dismissed (cornerbacks Charles Brown and Kendrick Burney). That leaves UNC a whole week to adapt before LSU heads to town.
But at this point, you almost have to assume that some sanctions are headed UNC's way. That could adversely affect UNC's recruiting and ability to field a fully-stocked team next year. There's a whole lot to project into the argument to make it work (e.g. development of players), but it's possible that mighty UNC won't be quite as much of a powerhouse and Tennessee feared just a couple weeks ago. Perhaps more Buffalo-like, but with more SoS cache.
I'm not going to judge Hamilton's decision one way or the other because of this news; in business, you roll the dice on incomplete information and hope you guessed right. But I bet he'd like to have known this before he made the decision to fork over $750k to UNC; the last thing Tennessee needs is for UNC to go 2-10 next year yet still be a better opponent, SoS-wise, than Buffalo. (Conversely, I bet that UNC is a little bit happier to have that money on hand, considering that an NCAA slap-down could depress ticket sales.)
A little more seriously, though: this is the kind of revelation that every school in the country fears. All it takes is for a single tutor to be a bit too much of a fan of the team. Add that to a bunch of athletes where at least a few have no real interest in the academic side of the house, and the recipe for NCAA disaster is in place. Consider that this would never have been known but for the original investigation, and you can begin to realize that this could be happening at a university near you.
Maybe everybody else is just a little luckier right now.