DeCock

Davis at center of UNC's mess

Staff WriterAugust 27, 2010 

— Years and years ago, Miami brought in Butch Davis to clean up a football program run amok. Will North Carolina have to bring someone in to clean up after Davis?

Thursday's bombshell that the university discovered potential academic misconduct within the football program while cooperating with an NCAA investigation into players' potential illegal contact with agents raises serious questions about Davis' future at North Carolina.

The biggest one may be this: How can UNC chancellor Holden Thorp retain "every confidence" in Davis when a tutor who once worked for Davis' family is now a focus of an investigation into possible academic improprieties within his football program?

One NCAA investigation includes Davis' associate head coach and close friend John Blake. The other includes his son's former academic coach. It's a mind-boggling set of circumstances, with Davis at the center of it all.

The words, "The chancellor is here to see you" never bode well for a coach, not without a national title banner to unfurl. Nor does the chancellor apologizing to the university community on behalf of your football program, which is how Thorp opened his remarks Thursday.

Thorp and athletic director Dick Baddour said all the right things about Davis on Thursday, but it's hard to imagine them still standing behind the coach if either or both of the investigations pan out.

Name an NCAA hot button, and the Tar Heels have pushed it.

Agents? Defensive lineman Marvin Austin and wide receiver Greg Little are among the players who have been interviewed as part of a wide-ranging investigation into possible agent-related violations, an inquiry that extends to Blake as well.

Academics? As Baddour put it, "There is no greater matter at stake" than academic integrity. Any sanctions from the NCAA would be nothing compared to what the university community could deliver if the school's reputation is besmirched.

A season of such unrestrained promise is quickly becoming a season of looming disgrace. For once, football was battling with basketball for top summer billing in Chapel Hill, what with the top 25 preseason ranking, national TV opener against an SEC powerhouse and "BCS sleeper" buzz. Thursday night, all that anticipation was replaced with foreboding.

The opener against LSU is only eight days away, and casinos have stopped taking wagers. Literally, all bets are off.

Davis was supposed to be the disciplinarian, weeding out the John Bunting recruits who couldn't close a dorm-room door without doing something illegal behind it. Say what you want about Isaiah "Puff" Thomas, but he never threatened to bring the entire program down. (Not unless it was standing between him and the Cheetos at 3 a.m.)

Davis wanted bigger. Well, he got it: a big mess.

Your spring game is live on ESPN ... and your news conference announcing more potential NCAA violations is live on three television stations.

Baddour said Thursday the investigation now has "two prongs." Davis is feeling the poke of both.

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

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