From the Editor

Drescher: Butch, give up records

Executive EditorOctober 22, 2011 

Butch Davis, when he was football coach at UNC, pledged to provide a record of business calls he made on his personal cellphone.

"Anything that has anything to do with UNC and business, those will be completely open for public record," he said July 21. Six days later, he was fired.

Now Davis doesn't want to turn over the records. This week, his lawyer fought efforts by The News & Observer and other media outlets to force him to release the documents.

Public employees cannot dodge the state public records law by using personal cellphones or personal email accounts. That Davis is no longer coach is irrelevant to whether a log of his work calls is public record.

The law doesn't grant a do-over when public employees change jobs. If it was public record July 21, it's public record today.

The media outlets have sought Davis' phone records in covering the NCAA's investigation of UNC. The probe of academic fraud and impermissible benefits resulted in 14 players missing at least one game and seven players missing the entire 2010 season.

UNC has been accused of nine major violations. The NCAA has not levied a penalty.

After a court ruling in a lawsuit filed by the media coalition, UNC released phone records for land-line numbers in Davis' office and a monthly summary of a university cellphone issued to him. The records indicated no calls associated with Davis' university cellphone.

But a different cellphone used by Davis showed up on call logs for former UNC associate head football coach John Blake, indicating Davis conducted university business on that phone.

Our pursuit of phone records has been an important part of the revelations about the UNC football program.

Phone records showed Blake, who was forced to resign, was in frequent communication with sports agent Gary Wichard. Their relationship was a major part of the troubles at UNC.

Blake's lawyers said he took money from Wichard to pay for Blake's son's school tuition.

Phone records also showed Blake placed calls to Wichard within minutes of calls to the family of prized 2010 draft prospect Ndamukong Suh of Nebraska. Blake denied trying to steer players to Wichard, who has since died, or to other agents.

In its Notice of Allegations, the NCAA requested UNC provide information about these phone contacts.

The phone records are an important part of this investigation. By not releasing the records after he said he would, Davis creates suspicion that there is something he does not want to be public.

Former player Marvin Austin in July threatened to "spill the beans." Davis, on the same day he promised to release the phone records, said, " Marvin knows that I am completely ethical and that I always do the right thing."

Sunday's front section will be wrapped by a four-page bank ad. Inside you'll find the same Sunday news section as usual.

Drescher: 919-829-4515 or jdrescher@newsobserver.com. On Twitter @john_drescher

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