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UNC suspends four players amid investigation into alleged hazing incident

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CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 17: A helmet of the North Carolina Tar Heels sits on the field before their game against the Miami Hurricanes at Kenan Stadium on October 17, 2013 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

The University of North Carolina has suspended four football players for a violation of team rules following Yahoo Sports’ report of a school investigation into an alleged assault of walk-on freshman receiver Jackson Boyer.

The suspensions are for one game, at home against Liberty this Saturday.

Desmond Lawrence and Brian Walker, both starting cornerbacks, were among the suspended players. M.J. Stewart, a backup cornerback, and Donnie Miles, a backup at the ‘Ram’ position, were also punished.

"We hold our players accountable for their actions at all times," said head coach Larry Fedora in a statement. "These players did not meet the high expectations we have for them as members of our program and have been disciplined accordingly. They will not play on Saturday or be on the sideline with their teammates."

The school did not state the suspensions were related to the investigation of the Boyer incident, but multiple sources said defensive backs were involved in the alleged assault. Fedora said the violation of team rules occurred earlier this month.

The incident took place at the Aloft hotel in Chapel Hill, where the Tar Heels were holding training camp earlier this month. Boyer was left with a concussion, according to multiple sources, and those sources also described the incident as hazing that escalated into assault.

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Larry Fedora issued a statement on the suspended players on Wednesday. (AP)

Larry Fedora issued a statement on the suspended players on Wednesday. (AP)

The school did not confirm nor deny that hazing occurred – only that it was investigating the incident.

"We are aware of an incident involving members of the UNC football team that took place earlier this month,” Kevin Best, North Carolina's assistant athletic director for communications, said in a statement to Yahoo Sports on Tuesday. “We take this allegation seriously and the University is conducting a thorough review."

According to the UNC Office of the Dean of Students, the school has a clearly defined policy on hazing: "The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is committed to fostering organizations that provide a positive and safe environment for new and existing members. To that end, UNC expressly prohibits hazing or any activity that puts a student's physical, emotional or psychological health and safety at risk. The Instrument of Student Judicial Governance defines hazing as action, 'that causes or permits an individual, with or without consent, to engage in activities that subject that individual or others to risks of physical injury, mental distress, or personal indignities of a highly offensive nature, in connection with recruitment, initiation, or continued membership in a society, fraternity or sorority, club, or similar organized group, whether or not recognized by the University.' "

Lawrence and Walker are sophomores. Miles is a redshirt freshman. Stewart is a true freshman. Boyer joined the team as a walk-on in 2013. He returned to practice after the incident, though a source told Yahoo Sports he was “still recovering.”

Before the UNC investigation was publicly acknowledged, Jackson’s father, Rob Boyer, told Yahoo Sports, “I’m not ready to comment on it.”

Fedora told reporters on Wednesday that he’s unaware of the status of the school investigation, but he does not expect further suspensions.

“I think our student-athletes do a great job,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement. “We have 800 who participate in intercollegiate athletics, and from time to time, we all make mistakes. When we do, we hold each other accountable.”

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