If there’s one jaw-dropping aspect of the UNC scandal, it is not that the Tar Heels would resort to cheating to try to build a football program, instead, it is the seemingly complete lack of recognition by the ostensible adults that run the university what is happening before their eyes. Either the people in charge don’t know what happened in their football program, or they turned a blind eye to the misconduct of over a dozen players, the Associate Head Coach and their educational support staff and by so doing became willing accomplices. That logically disqualifies them from retaining their positions, and if UNC is going to “set things right” and restore their integrity, it may well need to replace more than its football coach, it may also need to replace its Athletic Director, its Chancellor and several members of its Board of Trustees.
Them not doing so will say everything that one needs to know about what UNC-Chapel Hill really stands for, and that won’t be integrity and academics.
With every passing statement of denial or minimization of the latest explosion below the waterline of the good ship Football, UNC’s athletic director, chancellor, and now, even the Chairman of the Board of Trustees lose credibility and make one question if these men are truly qualified to hold jobs of leadership.
Consider the words of Bob Winston, the Chairman of the UNC Board of Trustees today: “I think we have the right guy as our coach,” Winston said. “I feel that Butch Davis is going to take a look at what’s happened and will figure the best way to move forward. And I think he is committed to building this program in a way that will reflect the values of the University of North Carolina.”
Isn’t it a little late for Butch Davis to ever “reflect the values of the University of North Carolina?” That is, if those values are fair play, honest competition and and emphasis on academics — supposedly the very reason the school exists in the first place?
Winston went on to describe the job that UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp has done managing this scandal as “fantastic.”
Really? With each passing day, UNC seems to get in more and more trouble, and it would seem that NCAA investigators might need to call a realtor and buy a home in Chapel Hill. They have been on the campus so many times since July that they may as well live there. The press has reported some five or six visits that UNC has announced publicly, but privately, people from UNC athletics have said that the NCAA has visited at least fifteen times and for longer than the university is willing to tell reporters.
Meanwhile, Thorp continues the party line of publicly supporting and praising Butch Davis, and continually reiterates that the very man who was in charge of the football program there when it careened into deep trouble is the perfect choice to lead them out of the jungle and back into respectability.
He’s echoed by the accidental comedy of UNC Athletic Director Dick Baddour, a man who is clearly out of his element. Every single proclomation of “everything is fine” by Baddour lately has foreshadowed a huge new and damning revelation of misdeeds by a UNC player, coach or tutor. By now, Baddour’s opening his mouth to try to calm the waters must send UNC fans running for cover. Only the day before yesterday, Baddour said that crisis was nearly past. That was a mere eight hours before the thermonuclear revelation that his former Associate Head Football Coach had been simulataneously employed by a sports agent while he was in Chapel Hill. Calm waters indeed, and a Hollywood screenwriter trying to pen a black comedy could not have timed it more perfectly.
That is not Baddour’s only faux pas, instead, it is the latest in a collective series of them that indicate his general incompetence. He bungled the hiring and firing of Matt Doherty many years ago and got lucky when Roy Williams was persuaded to “come home” and fix UNC hoops.
Then he hired John Bunting, who promptly ran his mouth constantly and the UNC football program into the ground.
Enter Baddour’s next choice: Butch Davis, a man well known for his lack of loyalty to his employers, and one who has a reputation for breaking the spirit of the rules if not the letter of them. Davis, after all, resurrected the Miami football program that was crippled by sanctions by bringing in football players under track scholarships. The NCAA closed that loophole not long after. Davis told Paul Dee and the Miami Hurricanes that he was not leaving their program, probably on his way to Cleveland to accept another job as an NFL head coach. In Cleveland, the Davis era was marked by soap opera politics from the coach, and many of his former players there say now that not only had he lost the team by the time he left the Browns, that also behind his back that Davis was a laughingstock to his personnel.
Baddour apparently ignored all of these warning signs and gave Davis free reign over the UNC football operation. Davis brought in John Blake, a man with a reputation for failure and rules transgressions of his own, and the rest is history.
Neither Winston, Thorp, Baddour or Davis could apparently be bothered to conduct as much as a simple Google search on Blake’s background, which would have yielded more warning signs than the dials on controls of a plane about to crash. Nor could they be bothered to talk to Blake’s former employers and peers, who apparently have had plenty to say about him in public.
Objectively, it is fair to say that the UNC Scandal is the worst athletics scandal to hit an ACC school since basketball’s Dixie Classic Point Shaving Scandal of 1962.
In that particularly sordid event, 50 players were implicated for fixing (altering the score) of the outcome of some 54 games. Four N.C. State players and one at UNC were charged with bribery and granted immunity in Wake County Superior Court for testifying against the conspirators. Five players were later indicted, convicted and given suspended sentences for fixing games in Durham County.
Six of the eight men accused of paying players to shave points pled guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges and served time in prison. Dave Goldberg and Steve Lekometros, went to trial in Wake County, were found guilty and both were handed two, five-year sentences. Both served 22 months in an N.C. prison.
Even that scandal, as bad as it was, never involved a coach — much less the second man in charge on a staff — as a co-conspirator. UNC’s current football scandal has that, and much, much more. That much we know. The sad thing is, given the endless stream of revelations, it’s reasonable to assume that we may soon be greeted by even more sordid news about misdeeds in Chapel Hill.
Yet the man in charge continues to enjoy the public confidence of not only his direct manager, but also the head of the university and the man in charge of the Board of Trustees, the group charged to independently oversee the school and its operation.
That is not good management.
Good management is all about maintaining integrity, controlling risk and prudently creating an environment for sustained success. It is also about telling the truth to the stockholders of the company, which are in this case UNC fans and the taxpayers of North Carolina, who pay Winston, Thorp’s and part of Baddour’s salary. Not doing so demonstrates a lack of integrity, it also demonstrates dishonesty and infamy.
The people of North Carolina, the ones who are ultimately writing the checks for this mess, deserve the truth. They deserve better than spin and self-serving self-interest, but so far, that’s all they’ve gotten from everyone involved.
Truth is, given their behavior, Bob Winston, Holden Thorp and Dick Baddour would be more qualified to run a company like Enron, which also had managers who couldn’t recognize the trouble they were in or tell the truth to the public about what had happened.
Like Enron, a corporation highly praised by the outside observers, UNC athletics enjoyed public trust and adulation for doing things the right way. We know now that Enron was an illusion, and that under its shiny surface that nearly everything away from view was rotten to the core. We’re learning the same lessons about UNC now: the football program has forever stripped away the shiny veneer of the “Carolina Way” — something supposedly built on integrity but in reality is nothing more than PR to appease the masses. One can now reasonably question that if UNC football operates without control or authority, do other programs do the same? It seems very possible with the managers currently in control over there.
While Winston or Thorp won’t go to prison like Enron CEO Ken Lay and CFO Andrew Fastow, one has to wonder why the UNC Board of Governors or if not them the State Legislature of North Carolina allows these men to continue collecting paychecks.
Given what’s becoming increasingly apparent, a boardroom of chimpanzees would have given UNC athletics better oversight and stronger management direction.