UNC can still begin moving beyond its regrettable football scandal of the last year, regardless of its final fate from the NCAA. Ohio State has conveniently provided Carolina with the model it should use in order to separate a scandalous past from a brighter future.
The Buckeyes, whose transgressions aren’t nearly as severe as those charged to the Tar Heels, immediately looked ahead by removing decorated head coach Jim Tressel after he bore responsibility for the violations by several of his players. The school installed assistant Luke Fickell as interim coach for the 2011 season.
The dirty laundry Ohio State still must deal with is off to the side and out of the public’s face, while its fans can focus on the new season without the controversy hanging over their heads on a daily basis. And perhaps Tressel’s firing and the Buckeyes vacating all of their 2010 wins, including the Sugar Bowl championship, may lessen their forthcoming NCAA penalties.
Carolina should do the same – immediately – before practice begins in August. Few objective observers truly believe that Butch Davis will survive the NCAA and academic allegations, for which he bears responsibility as the head coach and CEO of the football program but has yet to admit. Chancellor Holden Thorp, to this point a staunch supporter of Davis, told the Raleigh News and Observer
that the Michael McAdoo plagiarism case “is another sad part of the whole episode.”
So Carolina’s leadership has two choices:
- Allow Davis to coach the 2011 season under constant inquiry and suspicion over what else may come out and what will result from the October 28 hearing with the NCAA.
- Remove Davis as head coach, let coordinators John Shoop and Everett Withers coach the team and give the players and fans a break from the non-stop controversy.
If Davis coaches this season, he will face the media at least 50 times after the Operation Football press confab on July 25 in Pinehurst — between training camp, weekly teleconferences and live press conferences and after each of UNC’s 12 games, home and away. There will be constant questions over what has transpired, what may yet be revealed and the NCAA hearing. It’s unreasonable that Davis and Carolina can stonewall their way through such an inquisition.
Even if they can, does the team really need that distraction?
If Davis were removed, UNC’s pile of dirty laundry would be “off to the side” and the Tar Heels could play football out from under the cloud of controversy. How refreshing that would be at this point. Whatever advantage UNC has by Davis’ presence would be negated by the side show he will create after emerging from being virtually underground for the last 7 months.
Making such a move would also give Carolina a chance to plan for the future, and there is an obvious way to do that, as well. Whoever’s in charge at UNC these days (and that’s debatable) should say, “Enough is enough” and start repairing a tarnished image.
“That so many who have nurtured and protected that reputation for so many years . . . haven’t publicly called for Davis’ head is the saddest part of the whole sorry episode.”
– Scott Mooneyham, Greenville Daily Reflector
Dick Baddour, who is in the last year of his contract, could announce his retirement effective next June 30 and spend his remaining time in office dealing with the dirty laundry and preparing for October 28. UNC could begin a search for a new athletic director, whose first duty would be to hire a head coach. The next AD should come from the outside with experience in hiring coaches and overseeing those hires when necessary, an area where Baddour failed miserably.
Carolina has a history of no contingency plan that has resulted in the hiring of Carl Torbush, Matt Doherty and John Bunting, all of whom were eventually fired.
Where will UNC be if, next December, the NCAA hands down the major penalties that most knowledgeable pundits are predicting? Georgia Tech received four years of probation and a $100,000 fine for one player receiving impermissible benefits totaling $312. Two years ago, Michigan got three-year probation because its coaches exceeded the weekly 20-hour limit for practice. Clearly, the Tar Heels’ violations are more numerous and egregious.
“Butch Davis and North Carolina could face NCAA penalties more severe than USC even received.”
– Sporting News
No school has ever been charged with its associate head coach and recruiting coordinator (John Blake) being a paid by an agent while on the university payroll. Since that is unprecedented, there is no telling what kind of sanctions will follow. Also, the academic fraud among players and accused tutor Jennifer Wiley being hired privately by Davis are serious sins in the eyes of the NCAA, according to reports.
“ . . . if proven, those violations rank alongside any of the last decade.” – Sports Illustrated, July 11, 2011
By the terms of his contract and from the hue and cry of alumni, whose university’s reputation and integrity have been seriously compromised, Davis could never be retained if Carolina receives a major NCAA probation. But if UNC waits until November or December to fire Davis and does not have a new athletic director in place by then, what coach would want to come under such a chaotic situation? Certainly, a lame-duck Baddour hiring the fourth football coach of his tenure is not an option.
It is time for UNC to take stock of its current position and begin planning for the future. The Ohio State model looks like a good one to emulate.
That’s my opinion on the UNC football scandal, what’s yours? Comment below.