Survey: UNC fans support Davis

Staff WriterOctober 22, 2010 

A new poll indicates that UNC fans continue to support football coach Butch Davis. And so does a website, created just for that reason.

According to a survey of North Carolina voters by Public Policy Polling, 41 percent of voters describing themselves as UNC fans approve of the job Davis is doing as coach, while 20 percent disapprove (39 percent were unsure). In addition, only 14 percent of the Tar Heels fan base polled believe Davis should be fired, while 57 percent think he should keep his job.

In all, 597 voters statewide were polled, but only those 159 who described themselves as Tar Heels fans were asked questions about Davis - whose job security has been questioned by media members as the NCAA continues to investigate agent benefits and possible academic misconduct.

Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, described the survey's plus- or minus-7.8 percent margin-of-error ratio as high but said he is confident in the poll's findings because the numbers were so lopsided.

"I thought it [the opinions on Davis] would be a lot more divided," Jensen said. "What it tells me is that most of the anti-Davis sentiment is not coming from Carolina fans. The biggest takeaway is that within the UNC fan base, there is a lot of support for him."

And some fans are trying to garner even more.

Mike Brown, a 36-year-old web designer from Myrtle Beach, S.C., launched the site SupportButchDavis.com on Oct. 10, and he said 3,200 fans have already signed up to support Davis, and the site has gotten more than 15,000 hits. He says he has already raised the $2,400 needed to fly a SupportButchDavis.com aerial banner over Kenan Stadium for three hours during UNC's next home game, against William & Mary on Oct. 30. He's trying to raise another $2,400 to fly a banner during the Virginia Tech game on Nov. 13, as well.

In addition, Jon Watkins, a 32-year-old online strategist from Raleigh, has sold more than 2,000 Carolina-blue "I Support Butch" T-shirts at SupportButchShirts.com for $10 apiece, and he plans to give away others to students at the Virginia Tech game. More than 3,500 people have also hit the "like" button of his Facebook page, "Support Butch Davis."

Both men say they support Davis because they haven't seen any facts that Davis had any knowledge of misconduct by his staff or players.

"It looks to me, and most everyone that supports him, that he had an assistant coach and some students that made some bad decisions, but that doesn't reflect him," Brown said. "He seemed to handle it well and make an attempt to right the ship."

UNC chancellor Holden Thorp and athletic director Dick Baddour have expressed support for Davis. In all, 14 players have missed at least one game because of the investigations. Five of those Tar Heels have been cleared to play; six have either been dismissed for the season, or for good, by the NCAA or the school; and three other cases have yet to be resolved.

Public Policy Polling conducts monthly surveys on political issues but also adds other questions, such as about Andy Griffith or athletics. This poll was conducted before UNC beat Virginia last weekend for the first time in Charlottesville since 1981 - pushing the Tar Heels' record to 4-2 entering Saturday's game against Miami.

Of those polled who described themselves as "hardcore" fans, only 9 percent supported replacing Davis while 68 percent said he should remain coach.

Davis laughed Thursday afternoon when told of his approval rating: "I don't even know what the poll is. I'm still popular at home. My wife and son still like me."

Staff writer J.P. Giglio contributed to this report.

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

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