Ford Guilty of Michigan DWI in ’97
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) _ Phil Ford’s arrest this week for driving while impaired wasn’t his first. The assistant North Carolina basketball coach pleaded guilty to a similar charge in 1997.
The disclosure was published today in The News & Observer of Raleigh and came as North Carolina officials were making little comment on Ford’s future at the school.
An official at the 52nd District Court in Rochester, Mich., confirmed Wednesday that Ford was arrested for, and later pleaded guilty to, a similar charge. He was on a recruiting trip at the time.
UNC athletics director Dick Baddour said he was aware that Ford had a problem in Michigan but did not know the entire scope of Ford’s arrest and guilty plea.
``In 1997, Coach Dean Smith was still the coach,″ Baddour said. ``He knew about a previous alcohol-related incident and handled it internally, and I have complete confidence that he handled it correctly. We were aware of a previous incident, but we were not aware of a conviction.″
Ford, Smith and current head coach Bill Guthridge could not be reached for comment.
In Michigan, Ford was stopped by officers on Interstate 75 in the Detroit suburb of Auburn Hills at 12:45 a.m. on Sept. 20, 1997. Police records showed Ford’s blood alcohol level was 0.26 percent _ significantly over Michigan’s legal limit of 0.10.
Ford also had an open container of alcohol in the car.
One month after Smith retired and Guthridge was promoted to head coach, Ford pleaded guilty to the Michigan charges on Nov. 11, 1997. He was fined $600 plus court costs and required to attend alcohol highway safety classes and Alcoholics Anonymous classes upon his return to North Carolina.
Ford was stopped Monday night by Durham police and charged with DWI after a test showed his blood alcohol level was .24 percent.
Ford, North Carolina’s all-time leading scorer as a player, is on medical leave for an undisclosed period of time. A first court appearance was scheduled for Oct. 21 in Durham County court.
John Parks, spokesman for the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles, said the Michigan conviction was reported to North Carolina officials and any subsequent convictions would be a second offense.
``If someone is convicted of a second DWI within three years, then it’s a four-year suspension 1/8of the driver’s license 3/8,″ Parks said.