Butch Davis defends character, slams critics in N&O essay

acarter@newsobserver.comNovember 15, 2011 

After months of relative silence, Butch Davis, the former UNC-Chapel Hill football coach fired amid an NCAA investigation into improper benefits and academic misconduct, strongly defended his character in a piece he wrote for the opinion pages of today's News & Observer.

Davis also deflected responsibility for the circumstances that led to his dismissal and continued to claim he did nothing to warrant his firing.

Since UNC dismissed him in July during a multipronged NCAA investigation into misdeeds within the Tar Heels' football program, Davis had mostly remained quiet. That changed Monday, when he lashed out at critics who suggested his pursuit of a winning football program compromised UNC's academic mission.

"Any suggestion that I have placed athletic success over academic achievement is just plain wrong," Davis wrote.

Davis emphasized what he described as the importance of education and the role it played in his background and in his family.

He referenced his grandmother's Ph.D. and his father's master's degree, and wrote of his days as a high school biology teacher.

But Davis offered no explanation as to why during the 2010 season 14 of his players served suspensions for at least one game and seven missed the entire season amid the NCAA investigation into impermissible benefits and academic fraud.

Davis maintained his innocence after he was fired and reiterated it again in his essay.

"Neither the NCAA nor the university investigation even suggested any wrongdoing on my part," Davis wrote.

Davis wrote that he hoped provide "some perspective and clarity" following the completion of North Carolina officials' Oct. 28 appearance in Indianapolis before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions.

The committee is expected to release its findings - which will include punishments - within several weeks or months.

A university spokesman declined to offer a response to Davis' opinion piece and whether the university found it an accurate portrayal of his philosophy on athletics and education.

Conflicting SAT data

Davis wrote that during his tenure the SAT scores for incoming freshman football players rose by more than 40 points. UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp supported that claim during a September 2010 interview with The News & Observer.

In addition to the improved SAT scores, Davis in his final two seasons received a bonus worth one-twelfth of his salary because the football team had a higher adjusted graduation rate than that of the general student body.

However, data the university provided to the NCAA appeared to suggest the football team did not achieve a higher adjusted graduation rate than the student body during Davis' final two seasons.

University spokesmen on Monday stood by Davis' claim.

In his article, Davis also expressed disappointment in what he described as "the misinformation that has surrounded this entire matter."

Davis didn't elaborate, but his lawyer, Jonathan Sasser, did comment in an email to The News & Observer.

Sasser wrote: "There is no truth to the rumors that: (One) Coach Davis was fired because of (former UNC assistant coach) John Blake. (Two) Coach Davis was fired because of the tutor. (Three) Coach Davis was fired because of anything found in his cellphone records."

In addition, Sasser wrote, "There are also other bizarre hypotheses out there that are too ridiculous to merit comment."

Carter: 919-829-8944

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