Calling Audibles Part VIII: Face Time

This Thanksgiving, as every Thanksgiving we’ve spent at UNC, we were blessed to have some of the players at our Thanksgiving table.  Devon Ramsay is one of them.  

If you don’t know Devon’s story and you are a Tar Heel fan or any fan of college football, you should.  He is a fine young man—someone to be proud of, someone to root for, and someone for whom UNC should be thankful.  For John and me, Devon is someone who inspires us with his resiliency, his perseverance, and his desire to keep working toward his dreams.  And for John and me, Devon is the face of how poorly some of the NCAA investigation has been handled on multiple fronts.   We have grieved with and for Devon for two seasons now.

With the way the NCAA investigation of UNC has been handled in various media outlets and even with the way UNC itself has handled the scandal, it is easy to lump together all the players whose names got caught up in the fray.  And it’s easy to do that because little to no attention has been paid to some of the individuals who have lost so much when they did nothing wrong.   While a player like Marvin Austin, who made obvious bad choices, is the face of the scandal, Devon Ramsay is an almost invisible part of the overall picture.  Where is his face time?

Consider just a cursory look at what happened to Devon.

Devon has been a strong student during his time at UNC.  He comes from a great family.  He has been a great player with very realistic hopes for being a solid NFL player someday.  Devon has been a good team member and a good citizen of the UNC community.  Devon is an outstanding young man.

Four games into last season he was called into the UNC compliance office because of an email that turned up in the university’s investigation of academic improprieties.  The university had decided to go through all emails from Jennifer Wiley, the tutor who is accused of providing improper benefits to some of the players.  Early in Devon’s college career he had had a brief email exchange with Jennifer Wiley about a paper.  Devon had written the paper himself and asked Jennifer to look over it.  Jennifer suggested he move a couple of sentences from the end of the paper to the beginning.

When Devon was called in about this paper, which had been written a least two years prior, he was asked why he wrote certain sentences of the paper the way he did.  As can be expected, Devon could not remember every detail about a paper that he had written two years ago.  There was no indication that Devon had not written the paper himself, but the university sat him out of games “just in case” he was found to have done something wrong.

Then the agonizing wait ensued.  Devon’s case went into the lethargic case pile of this investigation.  (I still haven’t heard an explanation of why UNC’s investigation has taken over a year and half and still hasn’t totally been resolved, when cases involving people like Cam Newton seem to get resolved almost over night.)

Devon waited and waited and missed game after game.

Devon was given bad advice—like “just plead guilty and then you’ll be able to get back to playing faster.”  Devon’s case stalled out for several reasons that have not been officially acknowledged.  The NCAA finally handed down the penalty of “academic fraud” in November 2010 even though the UNC honor council did not even take his case to trial because there was no evidence of any academic impropriety.    The NCAA’s penalty was the loss of two years of eligibility.  Since Devon only had one year of eligibility remaining after the 2010 season, the NCAA’s penalty was an effective ban from any more college football for him.

For a player good enough to play in the NFL to have lost so much playing time and to have nothing on film for scouts to evaluate severely compromises one’s marketability as a player.  Devon’s opportunity cost from this undeserved penalty is high.

With the help of his mother, Sharon, and an attorney, Robert Orr, the NCAA finally reviewed Devon’s case.  In the end the NCAA totally reversed their decision in February 2011.

So between UNC’s decision to sit Devon out of games when he had not been proven guilty of any offense to the NCAA’s decision to exact a punishment he did not deserve, Devon missed all but the first four games of the 2010 season.  Devon missed the opportunity to help his team win games and to create more film for pro scouts to see.

When Devon was reinstated we were so happy that he would get to play his senior year.  We all had renewed hope that he could have a great senior year and that his NFL dreams were well within reach again.  Devon worked hard during spring football, during the summer, and during training camp. In fact, Devon is recognized by the coaches as one of the most dedicated, hardest working players on the team.

He started the opening game of the 2011 season at Kenan Stadium only to suffer a season ending injury to his knee during that game.   “Injury to insult” about sums up what has happened to Devon.

Since his injury, Devon has been working to recover from surgery and he has been working to find a way to still play football in the future.  While at last year’s Thanksgiving table we were praying for the appeal to the NCAA to go in his favor, this year again we are praying that he is granted a 6th year of eligibility.  Given the season he missed because of multiple errors by people other than Devon it seems like they owe him one, doesn’t it?  Even so, Devon remains in limbo.  He’s hoping, but there are no guarantees.

Devon has not given up; still, he has not given up.  And he is not angry or bitter, he is not using his energy to complain, but to keep his sights on dreams he’s had for a long, long time. He is trying to do what he needs to do make a sixth year possible—still following advice of UNC officials, still hoping that the NCAA will rule in his favor.

So when you think of the scandal at UNC and you feel tempted to picture criminal players illegally getting jewelry and trips to parties in Miami, don’t forget to think of Devon, too.   At the Duke game this Saturday it’s Senior Day.  Devon will go through it all “just in case” this is really his last game.  He’s not cleared to jog yet in his knee rehab so he’ll simply stand on the field with his position coach, Ken Browning, not quite knowing how to feel about the moment.  Will he be back this way again?  Or is this really it for him at UNC?

If there is any justice in the world, big time football will call an audible that sets the stage for Devon to have the running room he deserves.  And he’ll get face time for making the kinds of plays we know he can.

23 thoughts on “Calling Audibles Part VIII: Face Time”

  1. You are rolling, sister. This breaks my heart. As it should.

    1. Marcia says:

      Yes, it is a heart break. I am praying.

  2. Toni says:

    Thank you for sharing, Marcia. As I read this, the injustice done to Devon, your description of his attitude in all of this, brings to mind the Peace Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

    “O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
    Where there is injury, pardon.
    Where there is discord, harmony.
    Where there is doubt, faith.
    Where there is despair, hope.
    Where there is darkness, light.
    Where there is sorrow, joy.

    Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not
    so much seek to be consoled as to console;
    to be understood as to understand;
    to be loved as to love;
    for it is in giving that we receive;
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.”

    Maybe Devon senses that God is working something wonderful in his life that has yet to be discovered.

    It is hard to see injustice done to those who do not deserve it; and those who have done wrong slide. Isn’t the most important thing that we continue to pray that our God will bless the humble and the rigtheous.

    Miss you but at least I get to hear you in your blogs.


    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Toni, for sharing St. Francis’ prayer here. It does, indeed, connect. Devon’s groundedness and poise have been inspiring. His lack of anger, remarkable. I trust that God is working toward some new and life-giving thing for Devon. No doubt it may be something we can barely imagine right now. So glad you are reading and are a part of this discussion.

  3. Cindy Bolbach says:

    Marcia — Thank you for this series — the posts just keep getting better, although perhaps “better” is not the right word — maybe “heartbreaking” is more appropriate. I’ll be thinking about Devon tomorrow, and hoping the best for him.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Cindy, for reading and commenting. I know your prayers are a blessing for Devon. I give thanks for those prayers for him!

  4. Leroy Corso says:

    The reason Devon got caught up in the investigation and the reason it is taking so long is because unc has not been forthright and open in its investigation. Blame the unc admin and former head coach for Ramsay’s plight. He was caught up in a far reaching, many pronged probe. Good luck to Mr. Ramsay in the future.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Leroy, for your comments. I do think the reasons behind all the missteps with Devon’s case are multilayered. I don’t know that we’ll ever know all that went in to why it was handled so poorly. What remains the case and the thing I try to focus on is that Devon deserves for things to go his way, soon. Thanks again for commenting.

  5. Ralph says:

    You DO realize that Wiley was hired by Butch to do the student’s work (and Devon was right in the middle of this bunch) AFTER she was already fired by UNC, correct? Methinks young Devon might, and I know this is crazy, be lying. Just a thought. I mean, UNC is only facing an unprecedented Nine NCAA Major violations after all.

    But sure, maybe he’s the one innocent lamb in this whole torrid affair. Maybe. As an alum, this sort of article turns my stomach to be completely honest.

    1. Marcia says:

      Ralph, I am not sure where you are getting your information, but it is my understanding that Jennifer Wiley was already a tutor at UNC when Butch Davis arrived. I am sure you have never met Devon in person. I am not sure why you would attribute dishonesty to him. He’s a fine young man whether you are able to accept that about him or not.
      I am sure as an alum you are deeply concerned about the situation at UNC. I don’t blame you. As people who have put a lot into this university we are, too. The players and coaches have worked hard to be about all that is right at UNC. I am sad that people aren’t able to see that and draw some assurance from that. I do hope your stomach feels better and that in the future you can find reasons to feel better about your alma mater.

      1. Ralph says:


        Per the NCAA documentation provided by UNC, Wiley was in the employ of UNC until 2009 (, then hired by Butch. Wiley then, as I’m sure you’re already aware, wrote, edited, or otherwise did the work for several students, Devon included. Ms. Wiley also paid almost $2,000 in parking tickets, provided plane tickets, etc to the football player after she was fired by UNC and under the employ of Butch.

        Really, it’s just the facts. Read the article from the Daily Tarheel. They’ve done a superb job of helping dig out the details. Kudos to them.

        I draw assurances that this mess will be over soon, once the NCAA does their due diligence and puts the hammer down on the football program. This is national embarrassment for UNC, and I’m at a loss why “people who have put a lot into this university ” continue to defend the indefensible. The coaches and players, for years, lied, cheated, etc. It can’t be any more clear what needs to be done.

        1. Marcia says:

          Ralph, I understand that you have sources of information that you trust. There is always more to stories than you’ll find in any media source. I am sure you can appreciate that. I can assure you that my husband and many of the other coaches at UNC have not lied and cheated and they are as grieved as you are that anyone may have done either. I can tell you are passionate about UNC and I pray that you can honor the fact that there are many people in the football program who have done a good job for people like you and the UNC community. This whole ordeal has been very, very sad for us just as it has been for you. I wish you all the best, Ralph, and I hope you know that to be true.

  6. Ralph says:

    Marcia – given that you’ve erased this link from the Daily Tarheel twice already, I hope that you’ve had a chance to at least take a look at it. It does not seem you are open to discussion for some reason, but I hope things are well on your end.

    For what it’s worth, the Daily Tarheel has done a superb job of getting the facts out in the open. Kudos to them.

    1. Marcia says:

      Ralph, thank you for being a part of the conversation. I have not erased any links anywhere so I am not sure what you are referring to in your message. I understand that you have your perspective on the issues and that you are choosing not to trust those who have been a part of the football program. I can assure you that I am open to discussion that is mutually respectful. I responded to your original post which is the only post I had seen from you before just now. Take good care, Ralph. And I do hope you can get to a place where you feel better about your alma mater.

    2. terry says:


      Apparently, you might need the tutor. The article you use as a source talks about ONE student, not the fourteen that are continually talked about in the media (many of which have been cleared). Wiley was hired by the department led by the current chancellor, and recommended by them when the coach was looking for some help for their son.

      Your complete lack of regard for the individuals in this situation leads me to believe you have not read Marcia’s previous post about our (as a society) quick judgements when people of color and athletes are involved.

      By the way, any true UNC alum, knows that Tar Heel is two words.

  7. Leroy Corso says:

    Where did my post go? I don’t think it was offensive or critical of Mr. Ramsay.

    1. Marcia says:

      Leroy, I am not sure why your post automatically went to the spam filter. I am sorry for the delay in responding and in it being posted. Thank you for reading and I hope you will keep reading and commenting in the future. Take good care.

  8. Lyn Hawks says:


    Thank you for this important testimony and sharing of the impact Devon has had on you and John.

    Mob mentality and prejudice resist efforts to pull people out of a crowd. But once the story is told, a spell is broken. The fake “facts” are suddenly exploded and the cobwebs of gossip are brushed away. It’s an era of truth-telling and transparency and I thank you for being part of it. There are many fine young men like Devon playing football and we need to hear their stories.

    As a Duke fan, I’ve rooted hard for the Heels this season. Sports rivalry and drama has its place, but we all should resist character assassination and want to know the full story.


    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Lyn, for your vivid description of the clearing that can occur when we get to know actual people and their real stories. It has been a gift and privilege to know Devon. We’re thankful when others can celebrate the great person he is. Thanks, too, for cheering for a rival school because of people you care about. That’s a great model for the boundaries that love can cross!

  9. Tommy Mason says:

    What “turns my stomach” is how our own alumni, including our grossly incompetent chancellor, from the very beginning, simply assumed the worst and threw everyone under the bus without collecting the needed information to make an appropriate punishment fits the crime decision.
    Now these same people think that firing a football coach and his staff will somehow return some “academic integrity” to our University when the people who were truly responsible for the academics issues, including former Dean of Arts and Sciences and current Chancellor Holden Thorp, continue to draw a paycheck from our tax dollars. Using this logic, they should have fired the Chancellor when John Bunting was losing football games!
    The black eye on my alma mater is not anything that one coach did or a very few players did but instead the way UNC leadership mismanaged and continues to botch this situation.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Tommy, for reading and for commenting. I can hear your frustration and I share your feelings on many of the points you made. The sad part is how complicated and difficult situations become so much more destructive when there is not transparency and open communication. UNC is a great place and we pray that this terrible time will be an opportunity for some new practices and some new habits of mind to take hold. All the best to you. I hope you will keep reading and commenting.

  10. Jeff Foster says:

    What a terrific article Mrs. Shoop. Thank you for sharing your perspective on the trials this young man has had to endure, and I thank you and Mr. S for the way you’ve reached out to him, encouraged him and loved him during this time.

    1. Marcia says:

      Thank you, Jeff, for your comment and for your affirmations. Devon is a joy to be around and he is an easy person to love and support. We’re sure pulling for him still as he still has so many unknowns. I know he’d appreciate any good thoughts and prayers you send his way, too. All the best to you.

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