Some may think that the never-ending problems at UNC would be solved by the termination of Butch Davis, and toÂ a degree they would be right: the Tarheels would be rid of the man who worries more about the blue pinstripes on his players’ uniforms than whether his assistant coaches are wantonly violating NCAA rules.Â But that would not rid them of their problem.Â That problem lay in the system and culture of entitlement at The Flagship, and while Davis is like a cold sore to them, he is not the disease.Â He is the symptom.
Carolina, by and large, has operated for decades with a holier-than-thou attitude across the board.Â From the very top to the common Wal-Mart fan, anyone wearing light blue in the Old North State is happy to tell you that their school is better than yours, and “better” can mean anything from academics to athletics, all the way down to the layout and architecture of their campus.Â Folks here in North Carolina are no doubt familiar with “Blue Heaven,” “The Carolina Way,” “Public Ivy (we’re as good as an Ivy League school like Harvard or Yale),” and other similar passive-aggressive hyperbole that stream withoutÂ end from ChapelÂ Hill.Â Â Â
Truth is, UNC is a very good school, and its graduates and staff do have a lot to be proud of, but heavenly or as good as Harvard?Â Let’s get real, folks. By objective measure, UNC is not the largest school in North Carolina (NC State is,)Â its median salary for baccalaureates is not the highest in the UNC system (again,Â NC State’s is) and it is by no means even the most prestigious college inÂ North Carolina either: quite honestly, that would either beÂ Duke or Davidson.Â It is an athletic powerhouse in college basketball, no doubt, and for a long time it owned women’s soccer too,Â andÂ UNC’s women’s hoops program is indeed a player on theÂ national stage.Â ItÂ does win a great deal of championships in other non-revenue sports too, but there’s one glaring weakness on their resumeÂ — and hereÂ we begin to arrive at their problem — its college football program is hardly worth a second glance:Â UNC hasÂ zero national championships by any measure of annointing aÂ mythical titleholder one might choose, it hasÂ fewer victories overÂ teams ranked in the top five thanÂ one has fingers onÂ one hand and they’ve not even won a conference title in one ofÂ theÂ game’sÂ lesser conferences in over twenty years.
But, they do have pine trees.Â Those count more than anything to some folks like ESPN’s HeatherÂ Dinich.
So clearly, the Carolina Way failed UNC in its quest to dominate football the way it does hoops.Â And they wanted that to change.Â So badly, in fact, that they were secretly willing to believe that the ends justified the means over in Blue Heaven.Â
Those ends involved bringing in a former NFL and “Big-Time Program” coach to replace an alumnus, and he was given one clear edict: take us to the top.Â
Problem is, that coach had a checkered past: he kept the University of Miami at the top of the college game when they were on NCAA probation by gaming the system to work around the NCAA’s punishments.Â Instead of offering top-flight football players scholarships he was banned from giving to them to play football, instead, he offered them track scholarships.Â To play football. Some might claim that was brilliant, because it was not an NCAA violation at the time, exactly, but without doubt a violation of the spirit of the terms of the Hurricanes’ penalties.Â If anything, it made one thing clear:Â the NCAA and its silly rules were only an inconvenience to Butch Davis, and that they would not present guidelines or boundaries for him on his quest to win college football championships.
It nearly worked for him too.Â Davis never led the Hurricanes to a title before he lied to their leadership about not leaving for the NFL the day before he…left for the NFL.Â That too should have been a red flag to the UNC brain trust about the man’s character, but instead of shady, they saw glitter.Â Davis was in at UNC, John Bunting was out.
Problems began nearly immediately: known scofflaw John Blake was hired by Davis to be his main recruiter.Â That’s John Blake, the man who leftÂ a trail of tears and NCAA sanctions in his wake at other schools.Â The UNC Brain Trust nodded and said nothing.Â “Just get the job done!” their silence shouted, “We want to win!”
Within days, players with long-standing commitments to other schools were changing their address to play college football.Â Instead of packed houses in truly huge stadiums full of screaming Seminole fans, for example, they chose to play at Carolina in front of empy aluminum benches and, of course, those pine trees.Â Apparently, the scent of Carolina pine was far better than the the sweet scents of victory in front of 70,000 or more fans, and these events too were met with indifference by the UNC Brain Trust.Â Perhaps those Top Brains even said, “Who can blame Marvin Austin? He’s not stupid, he must want to be part of our culture of sweetness, goodness and light!”Â One can only imagine.
What is clear is that they said nothing, not to Blake, not to Davis, not to anyone, except “Just win, baby.”
And it didn’t happen. No titles. AÂ loss to hated non-rival NC State in Davis’ first year. No BCS bowls. Not much to brag about, really, not that it stopped the normalÂ hue and cry of the protypical UNC fan in March: “Just you wait!” they howled. “We’ve got the best group of players in the history of ever coming in and you will be lucky if we don’t beat you 72-0!”
Except it didn’t happen. Year two of the Davis era had its bright spots, but no titles. No BCS bowls. Nothing much to brag about.
Not even that drew the attention of the so-called brain trust.Â “Just win, baby!” they claimed.Â And, “And please don’t leave!” when Davis shopped himself for every college football job in the country, except possibly for the postition atÂ Paduka Community College in Kentucky.
Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Troubles Begin In Blue Heaven
Never did anything to brag about ever happened under Davis’ watch until the evilness that is July 15, 2010 dawned.Â Even this hardened NC State fan could not believe his eyes as he wrote the words:
BREAKING NEWS: NCAA INVESTIGATING UNC FOOTBALL
Who would have believe THAT?
Well, to start with, most of the clued-in writers at Statefans Nation, who’s “obsession” with UNC had long hinted of improprieties over in Blue Heaven. To us, well, this was no surprise.Â Except that it was: apparently the NCAA had blown a gasket, because they were now investigating one of its seemingly untouchable institutes of of higher learning, the holy University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
“It’s just an inquiry,” the UNC Brain Trust cried, “NOT an investigation!”
I don’t know about you, but it’s my experience that when the police knock on your door, it’s never because they are bringing good news.Â In fact, it’s almost always the opposite: they are bringing bad news.Â And indeed, that was the beginning of nothing but bad news emenating from Chapel Hill with the regularity of Old Faithful in Yellowstone.Â Despite that, a spin cycle from Chapel Hill soon developed:
- Denial – a temporary defense.
- Anger – recognizes denial cannot continue, and develops â€œwhy meâ€ thoughts.
- Bargaining - will try to somehow postpone or delay things, but begins acceptance.
- Depression – necessary process to detach oneself from people and things loved in life.
Knowledgeable readers might recognize the first four steps, they are part and parcel of Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’s “Five Stages of Grief.” The only step that seemed to be missing in the year that what’s now known as the UNC Football Scandal erupted is this:
- Acceptance – brings the peace and understanding that allows an end to the struggle, and a transition with dignity.
Until now, apparently, as even the most ardent of supporters like Art Chansky starting to call for Davis to be surgically removed from UNC athletics.Â It’s not a bad idea, but that won’t cure the disease. It will only cure the symptoms.
The Real Disease at UNC
Carolina and quite many ofÂ its acolytes seem to have Entitlement Syndrome, the idea that they deserve to be “Number 1″ just because they are who they are: Carolina fans.
That’s fine forÂ sports fans and royal families, and there’s probably not a school in college sports that doesn’t have some number of people living under that delusion.Â To a one, they can make an impassioned case for why “they” are the best and because “they” are who they are, why they should be number one in all areas of competition, year in and year out.Â Our learned Carolina friend Bob Lee Swagger coined an effective term for them years ago when he called people like that “The Lunatic Fringe.”Â Bob was right, even if his shotgun approach was far too wide.Â There is a lunatic fringe of fans of every sport everywhere.Â Even Newcastle United, one of the British Premiere League’s worst performing teams in the league’s history has its cadre of lunatics living in delusion.Â That’s how widespread the phenomenom is.
Adults, however, are supposed to be in charge at places of higher learning like UNC Chapel Hill.Â They are supposed to be rational, sane professional educators who are above all,Â Â and stalwart inÂ protecting the true main purpose of the insititution: preparing its students for a career in the student’s chosen field of study.Â That mission is supposed to even include the school’s football players, young men who are ostensibly student-athletes.
Except at UNC the “adults” were fans.Â Even more sadly, they appear to be part of the Lunatic Fringe.
They thought that they were entitled, because they were in Blue Heaven and they had pine trees.Â
So for the last year, those men and women have spun in the media as hard as they could, deflecting attention away from the real problem, and sacrificing anyone along the way who needed to be excoriated in the media to preserve the goal: to make UNC #1 college football.Â First it was tutors who would write papers for the “student”-athletes, then it was former players who were the assistant coaches’ bag-men, then the assistant coaches, now, apparently, even Chief Know-Nothing himself, Butch Davis.Â It’s almost as though they think they can make another big hire, take a minor penalty such as writing book reports from the NCAA and get back on the trail that leads towards greatness.
And that’s the problem: them. Men like Bob Winston and Holden Thorpe, the ones at the top, the ones who either let the disease fester or didn’t nip it in the bud under their watchful eyes — or, if you prefer, do the job they were hired to do: manage the University of North Carolina effectively and to preserve and propogate its true intent: to educate.
If anything, those men have indeed been educators: they’ve taught the world that the Carolina Way is a sham, that Blue Heaven is a scam, and that they value winning over integrity.
And they have to go if this disease will ever be cured.
They ARE the disease.