Commentary

DeCock: North Carolina just can't turn page on Butch Davis

ldecock@newsobserver.com June 25, 2012 

It’s easy to understand why Drew Davis would want to walk on the North Carolina football team. Although he followed his father all over the country, his high school years were spent at East Chapel Hill, and more important, around the North Carolina program.

He’s as much a Tar Heel bred as anyone. You can’t fault the kid, because he’s just doing what feels right to him. And if his father weren’t Butch Davis, no one would care.

But, there’s just no way around his father.

This doesn’t seem like a good idea for anyone. At a time when North Carolina is neck-deep in yet another athletic scandal, this time involving academic fraud in the Department of African and Afro American Studies, the last thing it needs is the fired coach’s son on the football team, even in a position as inconsequential as walk-on quarterback.

New coach Larry Fedora is well aware of this, but as far as he’s concerned, Drew Davis is just another local kid who wants to play at North Carolina. His father isn’t his concern.

“If the kid has a dream of playing at North Carolina, why should we stop that dream?” Fedora said Monday. “You come in and you’re just like everybody else.”

More than anything, North Carolina’s football program needs to move forward, to put the Butch Davis era, for good or bad, behind it. So much work has been done on that front: athletics director Bubba Cunningham replaced Dick Baddour, Fedora arrived with a completely different football philosophy and the sanctions imposed by the NCAA for the nine major violations are just a fact of life now.

And now Butch Davis will be back on campus, accorded all the rights and privileges of any other North Carolina football parent.

Davis, who hired John Blake, who hired Jennifer Wiley to tutor Drew when she wasn’t busy committing academic fraud on behalf of his players, who still won’t turn over the subpoenaed records from the personal cell phone, who once offered a scholarship to his son in the midst of the NCAA investigation to Chancellor Holden Thorp’s chagrin, now will have every legitimate reason to hang around the program.

Given the continuing unhappiness of factions within the fan base over Davis’ firing last July, that won’t make Fedora’s job easier – particularly if the Tar Heels struggle during the transition to his schemes – and it certainly won’t ease any of the pressure Thorp still faces for making that decision.

It was the original scholarship offer to Drew Davis that prompted Thorp to blow his stack in August, complaining to a News & Observer reporter that he hadn’t been consulted about the offer and committing a secondary NCAA violation in the process. Thorp was traveling and unavailable for comment Monday.

Then there’s Drew Davis, who just wants to play football with his friend Bryn Renner. It’s unfortunate, but he will be the subject of considerable attention that far exceeds his likely role on the team.

Fedora said he discussed that with Davis, but he was more concerned about how Drew would handle it than what it might mean for the program.

“For us, it’s not that big of a deal,” Fedora said.

If Drew Davis were anyone else’s son, it wouldn’t be. But this is North Carolina, and the father is Butch Davis, and his considerable shadow will continue to fall upon Kenan Stadium.

DeCock: luke.decock@newsobserver.com, 919-829-8947, Twitter: @LukeDeCock

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