UNC stands by Davis

Admitting that 'corrections' need to be made within the UNC football program, Thorp and Baddour say Davis is still the man they want to lead the Tar Heels.

Staff WriterOctober 1, 2010 

— North Carolina's Butch Davis said Thursday he isn't resigning. And UNC chancellor Holden Thorp said he isn't firing the head football coach, either.

Amid the latest turn of events in the double-barreled investigation into the Tar Heels football program - this time, that former associate coach John Blake received multiple payments, and a credit card issued by agent Gary Wichard's company - Davis, the chancellor and athletic director Dick Baddour all agreed that there need to be "corrections" in the football program.

"And to make those corrections with Butch Davis as the coach is, again, by far the most efficient way to create the kind of program we want," Thorp said in a telephone interview. "So as long as I believe that he's committed to the values we've talked about, and the corrections we need to make to get there, I want to have him for my coach."

Davis' job security has been questioned since the NCAA first began its investigation, in late June, into whether football players received improper benefits from agents. Since then:

UNC opened up a second "prong" of the investigation when it was revealed that a tutor - who worked for the school from 2007-09, and Davis from 2008-10 - may have given improper help to football players on papers.

Thirteen players were deemed ineligible, or withheld, from UNC's opener because of the investigations. Nine are still out - including Davis' first big recruit, defensive tackle Marvin Austin, who has also been linked to Wichard and was subpoenaed to testify in the N.C. Secretary of State's investigation into professional sports agents.

Two defensive starters - Kendric Burney and Deunta Williams - were suspended by the NCAA for six and four games, respectively, for taking improper benefits on trips. The duo will appeal today, but one of the cases involves former Tar Heel Chris Hawkins, who was allowed to hang out in UNC's weight room as former running back Willie Parker's "manager." Hawkins has since been dubbed an agent by the NCAA.

And then there's Blake, a long-time friend who Davis first coached in high school. Blake resigned Sept. 5, after the NCAA and school learned about his money transactions with Wichard - with whom he's had close ties for more than 25 years.

Davis said Thursday he did not know that Blake was taking money from Wichard, although "clearly, as the head football coach, you'd like to think you would know." He has also said that he did not know the tutor was giving inappropriate help to football players.

Baddour, too, said he's convinced that Davis "did not know of these things, that there were not signs of these things. I don't believe he ignored things, so I think it's really hard to know about these kinds of things without there being some hints around. And I acknowledge that in retrospect, there are some questions that we could have been asking, and we will ask."

To that end, Davis said he is already beginning to take steps to make sure the same mistakes don't happen in the program again, including paying more attention to where - and with whom - players travel during off weekends and holiday breaks. He also said the school "clearly" would not hire an assistant with such strong ties to an agent in the future.

"I'm absolutely willing to take a look at our program ... and anything we need to do, whether it be from an academic standpoint, looking into the backgrounds of coaches, we're going to do that," Davis said. Asked if he thought it was in the best interest of the school for him to resign, he said "no," and added that he expects to be UNC's football coach now and in the future.

Bob Winston, chairman of the UNC-Chapel Hill board of trustees, said the board continues to stand behind the administration and the athletic department, which is supporting Davis.

"There are some players and a coach who made some judgment errors, and we are disappointed about that," Winston said. "But we have to be thoughtful and careful about what we do. We have to make decisions based on fact."

Thorp said he knows there are people who think Davis should be fired, but says that he has spent hours with the coach talking about the issues, and he thinks the fourth-year coach is the one to help solve them.

"Why do I believe in him?" Thorp asked. "Butch was a high school teacher, and his whole family is committed to education and his whole interest in college football has been to help these young men get an education. That's what he told [former chancellor] James Moeser and the trustees and Dickie when he was hired. I think there's been a lapse there, but that's truly what he believes, and so that's why I believe in him. And the people who think they know what to do about this haven't been in the room for the hours I've been talking to him."

Anne Blythe and J.P. Giglio contributed to this report.

robbi.pickeral@newsobserver.com or 919-829-8944.

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