For all the tawdry scandals that have tarnished college football over the past 12 months — from USC to Tennessee, from Cam Newton to Jim Tressel — one can easily argue that the nine major violations levied against Butch Davis’ program Tuesday contain more filth and more blatant disregard for the rule book than any of them.
That task could get a whole lot harder once the Committee gets done nuking his program sometime after its October hearing, and perhaps by then the school will be shamed into making a change. As of today, however, the official stance, as articulated by Chancellor Holden Thorp, is: “We made mistakes, and we have to face that.”
There were, however, allegations that the “institution” failed to properly monitor the conduct of Chris Hawkins, who was allowed access to the facilities and participated in one-on-one drills with the players. And the “institution” failed to monitor the social networking of the players in 2010. And here’s the kicker … the “institution” did not follow up on information that “indicated a risk of improper benefits being provided when reported by [a student athlete] to administrators within the football program.”
Somebody knew something was going on and “the institution” let it continue.
Thus concludes what appears to be the perfect storm of NCAA death: Players got paid, agents were everywhere, players committed academic fraud, coaches, players and tutors alike misled or stonewalled investigators — and there was direct institutional knowledge via Blake, who (according to the NCAA) not only knew but was actively participating in flouting the rules in a way that the last guy the NCAA accused of being a rogue assistant coach, USC scapegoat Todd McNair, never dreamed.
If you’ve been following this case from the beginning, none of those charges are new. But it is eye-opening to see all of them exhaustively detailed in one place for the first time, and there is no escaping the conclusion that the Tar Heels are going to feel the maximum, USC-level pain in response — up to and including a postseason ban and heavy scholarship losses. Institutionally, North Carolina worked hard to distance itself from the worst offenders ingratiate itself as a collaborator in justice when it became aware of the violations, but if the NCAA can’t throw the book at a school that employed an assistant coach it accuses of acting as a runner for an NFL agent, it might as well ditch the rulebook and badges and rename itself the “Basketball Tournament Deposit Association.”
The culture and perception of UNC football certainly have changed, and Davis has failed in how he’s operated the ship. It seems suspect that he would be so grossly let down by the judgment of a close friend of 30 years and by a tutor he paid out of his own pocket.
This isn’t to nail Davis with a guilty stamp. However, it’s hard to look past those situations and relationships while accepting that the most meticulous coach in the ACC, one who is obsessed with the striping on his team’s pants, would be so far out in left field when it came to what Blake and Wiley were doing, not to mention the other charges levied by the NCAA.
And now Chancellor Holden Thorp must ask himself: If Davis didn’t know what was going on, should he have?
After a year of telling us how in control they are over at the Flagship, since last Thursday Thorp and Baddour haven’t had much to say, but now they just want us all to know how sorry they are (J.P. Giglio, Charlotte Observer):
UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp, athletics director Dick Baddour and football coach Butch Davis were requested by the NCAA to attend the meeting.
Baddour said the next step for UNC is to prepare a response.
“We’ll go through it in absolute detail,” Baddour said. “Then we’ll make decisions about what we agree with and what we don’t agree with and how we’re going to move forward.”
UNC has gone almost 50 years, spanning to a point-shaving scandal with the men’s basketball program in the 1950s, without incurring what the NCAA defines as a major violation.
“I deeply regret that Carolina is in this position,” Thorp said in a statement released by the school. “We made mistakes, and we have to face that.”
Updates to follow.