Seven Lessons from the Davis Firing
1. The internet and airwaves are filled with sports pundits and fans lambasting UNC for firing Butch Davis on the eve of the football season. But once it became apparent what key Davis hire John Blake was doing while a Tar Heel coach (essentially acting as an agent’s agent), there was no “wrong time” to terminate Davis if your concern for UNC-Chapel Hill goes beyond wins and losses. While sooner would have been better, there is absolutely nothing wrong with now if you take the perspective that what’s best for UNC need not have anything to do with what might be good for its football team’s record.
2. Similarly, the success or failure of UNC’s football team should never be a measure of the strength of the university. The incredible work of Carolina’s scholars and healers and inventors and students is what really matters. Indeed, the fortunes of the football team shouldn’t even be equated with the strength of Carolina athletics generally. For example, the greatest college sports dynasty America has ever seen is the UNC women’s soccer team which has won 21 national championships. If cheering on Tar Heel teams is a key part of your life, as it is for mine, there are numerous supremely talented squads to pull for, none of which play in Kenan Stadium.
3. My godfather Ray Farris quarterbacked Carolina teams in the early 1960’s, and my love for Tar Heel football stretches back to the ’70s. I was there when “Famous” Amos Lawrence made tacklers miss as if he wore an invisibility cloak, when Kelvin Bryant scorched East Carolina for six touchdowns, when defenders such as Lawrence Taylor and Chapel Hill’s own Bernardo Harris decimated opposing quarterbacks. But, in light of the compelling evidence of the neurological toll the concussive and subconcussive impacts pervasive in football are taking on players, nothing about Carolina football going forward will give me more satisfaction than knowing that team members graduate with enriched not damaged minds. UNC appears to be doing more than many schools in protecting its players from chronic traumatic encephalopathy, but the issue seems to have been overshadowed on campus (at least publicly) during this past scandal-plagued year. The Ivy League recently limited its football teams to two full-contact practices a week. UNC should be urging the ACC to follow suit.
4. Here is another thing that matters more, a lot more, than the football team’s on-field fortunes: the overall fitness and physical health of the entire UNC student body (and faculty and staff). Could diverting resources (both money and time) from football in favor of expanded campus-wide instruction on lifelong exercise and eating habits make a meaningful difference in thousands of lives? I think so.
5. Charles T. Clotfelter has great timing. The Duke professor’s compelling book, “Big-Time Sports in American Universities”, was just published and is a must-read.
6. Listen to what Art Chansky says 1360 WCHL and read everything he writes on www.chapelboro.com. You don’t have to always agree with it but, if you are interested in Carolina sports, you don’t want to miss what’s on his mind.
7. Everett Withers makes a great first impression. Go Heels!
What lessons did you draw from the Butch Davis saga?