DeCock

DeCock: It's time for UNC coach Davis to end silence

Staff WriterJuly 22, 2010 

Butch Davis will face a room full of fans today, all with similar questions on their minds: If not "What did the North Carolina football coach know and when did he know it?" then at least, "What are the implications of the NCAA's investigation for what was shaping up to be the most promising football season in Chapel Hill in a long time?"

Davis isn't likely to answer any of them. If he hews to the party line, he won't even address the issue at all. But other football coaches in the same position have spoken out, and it's time for Davis to speak out as well.

Today's Pigskin Preview luncheon in Durham will be attended by Davis, N.C. State's Tom O'Brien, Duke's David Cutcliffe, East Carolina's Ruffin McNeill, N.C. Central's Mose Rison - and one very large elephant in the back of the room.

That elephant is, of course, the NCAA's investigation into the North Carolina football program, one centered upon Marvin Austin, Greg Little and any potential contact they may have had with an agent.

North Carolina has lowered a curtain of silence, referring all inquiries to athletic director Dick Baddour, who acknowledged last week that an investigation was under way but has consistently declined to comment beyond that, citing instructions issued by the NCAA.

"When they were here, they told us they do not want us commenting on the investigation," North Carolina associate athletic director for communications Steve Kirschner said. "As Dick Baddour has said, we will cooperate completely with the NCAA. Part of cooperating is doing what they told us to do and not commenting on it. To this point, we have not even confirmed what sport is involved. We certainly have not confirmed what the issue is."

But South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has spoken freely about the NCAA's inquiries into tight end Weslye Saunders, the son of News & Observer metro columnist Barry Saunders and a Durham native. (Barry Saunders had declined to comment until Tuesday, when he said his son went to Miami for spring break but did not travel with Austin and Little.)

Alabama coach Nick Saban has spoken freely about the increasing threat agents present to the college game, even as one of his own players, defensive lineman Marcel Dareus, has been swept into the investigation.

There are an increasing number of voices speaking with insight and intelligence about the subversive role and influence of agents, many from schools currently under investigation. None of them is coming from Chapel Hill. So far, Little's father has said more about the probe than anyone at the university.

"I don't know what Coach Spurrier and Coach Saban were told. ... They may be under different circumstances, different directives, they may have had different people from the NCAA talking to them," Kirschner said. "I don't know. I do know what we were told, and I know what direction the NCAA gave us."

In an e-mail, NCAA associate director for public and media relations Stacey Osburn wrote, "The NCAA does not prohibit the schools under investigation to comment to the media, however, they are advised not to make any public comment that could hamper the investigation."

Kirschner said Baddour, assistant athletic director for compliance Amy Herman, senior associate athletic director Larry Gallo and deputy director of athletic communications Kevin Best have all discussed today's event with Davis.

There's clearly logic behind UNC's silence, but the case to provide some answers is just as compelling. It's fair to expect some degree of transparency and accountability from a public institution like the University of North Carolina, and Davis is the executive overseeing the football program.

He should be the spokesman, not a player's father.

It wouldn't take much, really. Even acknowledging there's a problem would be a step in the right direction. At the least, Davis could offer as much of an explanation as Spurrier without unduly hampering the investigation:

"All I know is they had talked to (Saunders), and talked to some players at North Carolina. That's all I know," Spurrier told The (Columbia, S.C.) State. "Whatever comes (of it), we'll just have to wait and see. ... So if we have a player that accepts money, gifts from agents or whoever, they'll be ineligible to play."

It's not a lot, but it's a start. There may be a lot of reasons for Davis not to say much today, but at this point, something - anything - is better than continued nothing.

luke.decock@newsobserver.com, twitter.com/LukeDeCock or 919-829-8947

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