Davis says he's staying

Despite ongoing turmoil within the program, the UNC coach focuses on football.

staff writerSeptember 8, 2010 

— Two days after his top assistant abruptly resigned as the NCAA continues to investigate his program, North Carolina football coach Butch Davis renewed his commitment to the program on Tuesday.

Asked if he believes he will be the Tar Heels coach for the rest of the 2010 season, Davis said, "I do. Absolutely."

Both UNC athletic director Dick Baddour and university chancellor Holden Thorp have stated publicly their support for Davis since an agent-related NCAA investigation into the program expanded on Aug. 26 to include cases of possible academic fraud.

Thirteen players missed the Tar Heels' 30-24 loss to LSU Saturday because of the ongoing investigation.

Early Sunday evening, UNC announced the resignation of John Blake, the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator.

Four of the suspended or withheld players were from the defensive-line unit, the position Blake coached at UNC the three previous seasons and one game this season.

Davis said there was an "awful lot of pressure" on Blake, and that Blake made a decision based on what was best for his family.

Davis said he had no plans to follow Blake's lead in leaving the program.

"Right now, I'm just focused on coaching this football team," Davis said.

Davis' contract, which was most recently updated in Jan. 2008, runs through the 2014 season. It would cost UNC about $3 million to buy out his contract without cause. He has supplemental compensation payments of $312,500 due on Sept. 15 and Dec. 15 of this year.

There are provisions in Davis' contract that allow UNC to terminate "for cause" for "violations by the assistant coaches under [Davis'] supervision of which [Davis] had reason to know."

Davis said Tuesday he is looking forward to the future and reiterated that he will use the NCAA investigation as a learning opportunity and a means to improve the program.

"All the things that may be going on with the football program will give us a chance to improve," Davis said. "We'll take a long, hard look at any of the ways that we can improve the education that we're giving to the players, from the standpoint of dealing with agents and the pitfalls of potential runners. We have been doing an extensive job of that over the past three years."

UNC will not hire a new assistant to fill Blake's role.

Linebackers coach Art Kaufman will run the defensive-line meetings, Davis said. Everett Withers, the defensive coordinator, will supervise the linebackers.

Norris McCleary, a former defensive tackle from East Carolina and a member of the player development staff will assist Kaufman.

The players who worked directly with Blake were stunned and disappointed by the coach's decision to leave the program.

"It was shocking," junior defensive tackle Quinton Coples said Tuesday. "Nobody thought it would ever happen. Everybody thought he would be here for life, or at least our four years."

Davis said the status of senior defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who was suspended indefinitely on Sept. 1, remains unchanged. Davis said he had a "healthy conversation" with Austin for about an hour Monday.

"Marvin is a good kid at heart," Davis said. "One of the things as a head football coach, you are more than just an 'Xs-and-Os' in a lot of these kids' lives. You're a surrogate father figure, you're a mentor to them. You can help them put things in perspective."

Austin was the only one of the 13 suspended/withheld players who did not practice Tuesday. There was no update on the status of the 13 players for next Saturday's home opener against Georgia Tech.

UNC (0-1), which fell out of the AP Top 25 on Tuesday, has an open date this Saturday.

jp.giglio@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8938

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