Marvin Austin , Robert Quinn and Greg Little were supposed to lead North Carolina's resurgence under Butch Davis this season. Instead, they never even stepped on the field.
The school kicked Austin off the team Monday, and the NCAA declared Quinn and Little "permanently ineligible" amid an ongoing investigation into whether players received improper benefits from agents.
The Tar Heels, also being investigated for possible academic violations, began the season with 13 players sidelined. The status of six players remains in question.
The NCAA said Quinn and Little received travel accommodations and jewelry, then lied about it to investigators in three separate interviews.
The school decided it wouldn't wait longer to cut ties with Austin -- a star defensive tackle at the center of the investigation since it began -- after the NCAA provided preliminary information that he had received double the benefits furnished to Quinn and Little.
SEC AWARDS: South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia , Arkansas safety Tramain Thomas and Auburn kicker Wes Byrum are the Southeastern Conference players of the week.
Garcia completed 17 of 20 passes for 201 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in a win over then-No. 1 Alabama.
Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray is freshman of the week.
ALABAMA: Leading receiver Julio Jones broke his left hand against South Carolina, and his status for the eighth-ranked Crimson Tide's game Saturday against Mississippi is uncertain.
Right tackle D.J. Fluker has a groin injury and will miss at least a week, coach Nick Saban said.
FLORIDA: The Gators could be without guard Jon Halapio (broken finger) against Mississippi State on Saturday.
Receiver Deonte Thompson and safety Matt Elam sustained concussions, but coach Urban Meyer says they should be cleared to practice. Running back Jeff Demps (foot) could return, and quarterback John Brantley (ribs, thumb, shoulder) is expected to play through his injuries again.
VIRGINIA TECH: Left guard Greg Nosal postponed the reattachment of a torn-off tip of his left pinkie to keep playing Saturday.
The school said Nosal lost the finger tip when it got caught between two helmets in the first half against Central Michigan.
The team surgeon gave the junior the option of having the finger repaired on the spot, or having the hand bandaged and the tip put on ice. He chose to keep playing and took pain medication.
HOUSTON: The school is asking the NCAA for a waiver to allow injured quarterback Case Keenum to play a sixth season. Keenum was nearing several NCAA career records when he tore his anterior cruciate ligament Sept. 18.