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Davis firing one more misstep


By Eddy Landreth
Staff Writer

The Carolina football program has been a punching bag for parts of the university community for years, but now so many people have pummeled it that the stuffing is showing.

The greatest blow came when Chancellor Holden Thorp went from claiming to support head coach Butch Davis to firing him just a week before summer practice began.

Thorp could not have found a more ill-suited moment to do it. He ambushed the players on the team and punished all those who have been loyal and followed the rules and regulations of the university and the NCAA.

In the end, he has further divided the university community while satisfying only the sanctimonious desires of those whose only concern is men’s basketball and the faculty who simply detest collegiate sports altogether.

The idea that firing Davis is going to restore academic integrity to the school is preposterous. The school of arts and sciences, which was headed by Thorp before he was promoted to chancellor, oversees the tutoring program. This area is off-limits to the coaches for fear of tampering.

Thorp, meanwhile, took the easy way out – but not the cheap one. Carolina must pay Davis approximately $2.7 million for the time left on his contract because the school cannot fire him for “cause.”

In simple terms, as Thorp conceded, Davis was not found to have committed a violation of ethics or NCAA regulations. His name is not mentioned in the letter containing nine violations that Carolina must answer to in October. Thorp said he fired Davis for appearance’s sake, not for knowingly violating any rules.

“We anticipate we won’t be dismissing coach Davis for cause,” Thorp said. “We will not. I don’t believe he knew about the things that went on.”

Some of the NCAA’s accusations and actions are ridiculous, such as threatening the school because a tutor who no longer works at UNC refused to speak with the NCAA or Carolina officials.

“Unethical conduct for refusing to provide information to the NCAA enforcement staff and to the institution” is one of the major violations listed.

Outside of bullying university officials around the country, the NCAA enforcement staff is powerless. Nonetheless, that group apparently believes its rules are federal law and its power equal to that of the FBI.

The Carolina football program unquestionably committed some egregious mistakes. Marvin Austin, Greg Little and Robert Quinn all accepted large sums of money from outside sources. They were punished with the loss of their collegiate eligibility. A few other players were found guilty of cheating and were punished with suspensions or loss of eligibility.

What is difficult to digest is the unequal treatment by the NCAA to different institutions with similar circumstances. Several years ago, Tennessee’s academic support personnel got caught writing papers for football players. The Volunteers skated.

This past season, it became fairly evident that eventual Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton of Auburn got paid to play. The question is not whether his dad pocketed the money, but how large the sum was. Yet the NCAA wrapped that case up quickly so that Newton could claim his Heisman and the school could play for the BCS National Championship, which it won.

Carolina, on the other hand, is undergoing execution by butter knife.

Everett Withers, the interim coach and the first black head coach of any sport at UNC, has the challenge of getting this club ready to play by the time UNC opens against James Madison on Sept. 3.

Then in mid-October, the school must sit before the official inquisition at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. Withers, who served as defensive coordinator for the past three seasons, will find his task even more difficult if the NCAA then hammers the school.

There is one positive that can be lifted from this train wreck. If there is any team in the nation capable of overcoming all of this and winning games, it’s Carolina. The Tar Heels had all of last season to learn how to do it.

“We’re very much prepared for it,” junior offensive lineman Jonathan Cooper said. “We have integrity now. We have the ability to bounce back, a resiliency, due to the fact of all the stuff we had to put up with last year.

“I feel this is just one more bump in the road, and we’re ready to move forward.”

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  1. jason jett

    It really is time to move on and accept reality.
    I am an avid Carolina fan, and supported Butch Davis as football coach up to the day he was fired. Initially, I was shocked and stunned; and felt it was a wrong-headed decision.
    Then reality hit and I realized Chancellor Holden Thorp made the right choice.
    Carolina’s reputation and image has been tarnished, and accountability has to be applied in repairing the damage. Coach Davis has to be held responsible, whether he personally did anything wrong. The coach is responsible for the overall program. One can delegate authority, but not responsibility. It is time to fully support Coach Everett Withers and the football team, rather than bickering like children and threatening boycotts or lawsuits.
    UNC is a university of higher education, not your country club…

  2. Mike Smith

    As Mr. Landreth states, adherance to NCAA rules and regulations is a voluntary commitment by the member schools. The NCAA has no legal enforcement mechanisms other than what the member schools agree to do and in the maintenance of NCAA kept records. For example does anyone seriously think the Ohio State fans and players don’t think they won the national championship? And a good bet would be that in the Ohio State records it will list the national championship with (invalidated by the NCAA). So what good is invalidating the win?

    The result of many of the rules and regulations now in place, prevent friends, be they alumni or not from providing rides to home, to shop, or to visit relatives for any athlete. Or any financial aid, read buy clothes when money is tight, or treat a friend to a movie, etc. Obviously in the past many alumni/supporters provided all kinds of benefits to athletes. From cars to clothes to vacation trips to cookouts for the whole team.

    The question becomes why should anyone penalize the athletes for taking advantage of benefits offered by alumni/supporters who just want to feel a part of the team or close to the players. Obviously anything even hinting at point shaving or influencing game outcomes detrimentally should be looked at closely. But why is it wrong for someone to give gifts? Is it wrong for the same person to give a gift to the NCAA or the University? NO, NO, and NO.

    When will the public draw the line and say to the NCAA enough is enough. The application of penalties for transgressions in regards to their own rules seems highly inconsistant and Politically motivated, (sports wise).

    So what to do, Ignore the NCAA, (then the other non-major sports suffer), or reform the NCAA? Of course if you ask anyone in the NCAA administration there is nothing wrong with what they are doing. Excuse my rant but the NCAA makes it increasingly harder for the disadvantaged athletes to compete in athletics and have a well rounded college experience. The issues are much more complex than what I have mentioned here BUT the NCAA has gone too far!!

    The public in general doesn’t abide by NCAA decisions, ie. Ohio State didn’t win the championship? RIGHT! ask any fan! Many of the rules and regulations have basis in the need to insulate collegiate athletes from the professional (read play for pay) world of make all the money while you can. Of course each university and the NCAA make billions off the efforts of these athletes. Did UNC make money off MIA Hamm? Of course , but she didn’t get any compensation while she was in school. Or Michael Jordan, well there is that deferred “the best in the world”. but seriously why can’t the athletes have some kind of stipend from the institutions they play for? When the income from basketball and football pays for the entire sports budget surely some of the income should go to the participants and not just to the coaches, athletic directors , and the schools (the schools do own those multi-million dollar facilities don’t they?).

    Speak out, if the NCAA can’t be reasonable then lets just not participant in their rules, oh there’s a thought, if fifteen or twenty schools of the caliber of UNC just said F___ you to the NCAA and played who they wanted how they wanted I’m sure the media would follow the results of their games and so on, and so on.

    ENOUGH SAID

  3. Jonathan Childres

    So Jason,

    You say one can delegate authority, but not responsibility. Does the same rule apply to Holden Thorp? The oversight for athletic academic support was taken away from the Athletic Department some time ago and placed with the Dean of Arts & Science to oversee so that coaches & Athletic Department officials could not exert undue influence on those responsible for the academic performance of players in all sports.

    So who was Dean of the College of Arts & Science when the tutor in question went off track? Who was responsible for the oversight of Michael McAdoo? It wasn’t Coach Davis, it was Holden Thorp.

    By your logic Mr. Thorp needs to resign or be fired. I couldn’t agree more.

  4. Harrill Lovelace

    Those that do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. The sheer stupidity of Thorp must be kept on the front page until he no longer has the ability to hurt UNC. For as long as I have been around college athletics I have never seen a single act hurt a program as deeply as what Thorp was able to accomplish. Then his stupidity raised up and bit UNC again with his own violation. The fact that Thorp is supported by anyone in the UNC hierachy simply tells any prospective FB coach or AD this university cannot be trusted. For this reason it may be safe to assume Thorp has set the FB program back a generation, and has hurt the athletic department as a whole because of a huge void in leadership. This man guides the whole school, so the damage may not yet be contained.