John Blake spoke to Andy Staples in an interview the other day. Staples, who works for SI.com, wrote an article around the ex-UNC coach detailing Blake’s thoughts about what has happened in the UNC scandal.
John Blake couldn’t imagine a more brutal professional experience than getting fired from his dream job. In 1998, when Oklahoma dumped the former Sooner star after three miserable seasons (12-22) as its head football coach, the venom nearly overwhelmed Blake. He had failed, certainly, but the level of hatred from seemingly everyone in Norman shocked him.
“It was like I had committed murder,” Blake says.
Blake assumed his work life would never again inflict so much pain. Then NCAA investigators showed up in Chapel Hill, N.C., on a hot summer day in 2010. Someone told Blake, then North Carolina’s defensive line coach and assistant head coach, that the people from Indianapolis wanted a word. Getting fired at Oklahoma nearly crushed Blake mentally. Being the target of an NCAA investigation, he says, was even worse.
On Friday, Blake is scheduled to appear before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions (COI) to answer charges that he steered players to agent and longtime friend Gary Wichard. Blake adamantly denies the charges, some of the most serious the NCAA has handed down in years. He says he never steered a player to any agent and he wants to fight to clear his name.
Blake understands the COI can destroy his career if the members don’t believe him. He also understands he doesn’t have to endure another grilling. He doesn’t have to spend money on attorneys to defend him. He could always coach something other than college football, but Blake wants to clear his name.
“Careers come and go in football,” said Blake in an exclusive interview with SI.com this summer. “But your character …”
Blake’s case ultimately will hinge on how the members of the COI feel about his character. Do they believe him? Or do they believe the NCAA’s enforcement staff? The NCAA has a mountain of circumstantial evidence, including hundreds of calls between Wichard and Blake, wire transfers and a brochure that indicates Blake once served as a key lieutenant in Wichard’s company. Blake, meanwhile, has an explanation for almost everything.
Whatever Blake thinks, the truth will hopefully all come out when Friday arroves.