Marvin Austin suspended indefinitely
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina coach Butch Davis suspended defensive tackle Marvin Austin indefinitely on Wednesday for violating unspecified team rules.
He may be the first of many Tar Heel players to be suspended, sources tell ESPN's Joe Schad.
"This decision is not a result of the ongoing NCAA review," Davis said in a brief statement issued by the school. "Marvin has violated team rules and has neglected his responsibilities to the team."
Austin, a senior, has been projected as a possible NFL first-round pick. He will not play Saturday night when the No. 18 Tar Heels face No. 21 LSU in Atlanta.
Austin is being investigated by the NCAA for his trips to Florida parties, California training sessions and his work with a tutor, sources told ESPN.
The suspension marks the latest twist during a turbulent summer for North Carolina, which is preparing to play against LSU on Saturday without up to 16 players, sources said Wednesday night.
The school is exploring the possibility of "rolling suspensions" with the NCAA, which would allow them to spread losses over multiple games.
Defensive end Robert Quinn is being investigated for his alleged interaction with an agent, a source said. Quinn has also worked with the tutor who allegedly wrote papers for some North Carolina players, a source said.
A source said North Carolina may have to play without seven defensive starters, including numerous high draft choice projections.
Among the players in danger of not traveling with North Carolina Friday are: Austin, Quinn, linebackers Bruce Carter and Quan Sturdivant and cornerbacks Kendric Burney and Charles Brown.
A source said North Carolina may also be depleted at running back on Saturday. The top two running backs for the Tar Heels following spring practice were Shaun Draughn and Ryan Houston. Wide receiver Greg Little has also been questioned about his trips, agents and papers.
The Tar Heels are working with the NCAA and hope to be able to decide before Friday morning which players will not make the trip and which should be held out for precautionary reasons, a source said.
The NCAA made two trips to Chapel Hill this summer to look into whether Austin and Little received improper benefits from agents. Wednesday's announcement did not address Little's status. Both players had been working with the second team for much of training camp and haven't spoken with reporters.
South Carolina tight end Weslye Saunders, who also has been at the center of NCAA inquiries for possible improper agent contact, has been suspended by the Gamecocks. Saunders will not play Thursday night against Southern Mississippi, though South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Saunders' suspension was not connected to the NCAA probe.
The investigation at North Carolina expanded last week to include possible academic misconduct, with school officials saying it involved an unknown number of players and a woman who previously worked as a tutor for Davis' son. The school has declined to specify how many players could be involved or are in jeopardy of missing the LSU game.
The NCAA also has looked at a cross-country trip involving Austin and former Tar Heels player Cam Thomas, and the friendship between assistant coach John Blake and California-based agent Gary Wichard.
The investigation led to disruptions in game preparations for the opener. The team did not issue a depth chart earlier this week, a break from customary game-week protocol, and Davis said he is using a "fluid" informal depth chart during practice.
Earlier Wednesday, Davis said during the Atlantic Coast Conference's weekly coaches' teleconference that the Tar Heels were "in a holding mode." Team officials canceled all scheduled media availability with players in advance of the LSU game. Players had been scheduled to talk with reporters Wednesday afternoon.
ESPN college football writer Joe Schad and the Associated Press contributed to this report.