Filling the Silence...

...as we await what may be a big week in both prongs of the UNC football investigation.

Situations like this often bring out the nutcases, and there is no shortage of those in the Carolina football mess. But two (somewhat) prominent national writers are leading the charge in calling for Butch Davis to resign or be fired, and suggesting that, in fact, North Carolina should scuttle what remains of the football season.

Terence Moore of AOL Fanhouse and Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports have both written scathing articles in the past few days condemning Davis and the UNC football program. Moore groups Carolina in with Florida State's "Free Shoes University" and SMU's death penalty situation of the mid-80s. Doyel goes so far as to call Carolina "the turd floating" in the college football punchbowl. (No links for either of them. You can Google it if you like.)

Scatological hyperbole aside, it is completely fair for Moore and Doyel to call for Davis' ouster. Their beliefs in that regard are not that much different from many alumni and friends of the university who wish to wash their hands of this entire sordid situation. But to suggest the team should forfeit the rest of the season, that the 75 -80 scholarship players who did not violate team or NCAA rules, is a stretch. Even more ridiculous is Moore's reasoning that, since UNC is a basketball school, football would not be missed anyway. (I didn't want to link that video, but you have to see it to comprehend just how ridiculous it is.)

As someone with a degree from the University of the People, I respect and appreciate the fact that both Moore and Doyel apparently believe the academic integrity of UNC is so great that it should not be sullied by any academic impropriety. But I do not seem to recall either Moore or Doyel calling for the end of a football season at FSU, where Doyel tries to make a connection to the current situation at Carolina, or Southern California, or anywhere else for that matter.

Clearly this is unprecedented territory for UNC, who has long steered clear of the NCAA. Also seemingly unprecedented is the timing of the academic and agent issues, so close to the beginning of the season. And certainly Carolina's troubles were on display in front of a national audience Saturday night even as Erin Andrews continued to report as fact the disproved Club Liv tweet and 3 AM time stamp. But is having 13 players suspended or held out for a game for potential rules violations really unprecedented to the point it calls for removal of the coach and suspension of the program?

Apparently not. A decade ago, the University of Wisconsin found itself in an eerily similar situation. From ESPN's "Outside the Lines", September 10, 2000 (emphasis mine):

How, you might ask, could the two-time Rose Bowl champions with a legitimate chance to win the national championship this year find themselves in this mess?

Head coach, Barry Alvarez and his coaching staff juggling NCAA suspensions for 26 players all because of discounts at a sneaker store. There is a familiar echo here...

It could have been much worse for Wisconsin. Originally, the NCAA suspended 47 players. And Wisconsin officials actually discussed forfeiting their season opener.

Only an 11th hour appeal by video conference reduced that sentence. Athletes on other Wisconsin teams will face discipline for their discounts. But the Badger football team approached yesterday's game against powerful Oregon knowing that a number of starters and other established players will again be sitting giving walk-on players larger roles than ever.

Wisconsin was actually allowed to stagger the suspensions (a.k.a. "rolling suspensions") and the investigation spread to 84 athletes over a number of sports. Now in no way am I comparing shoe store discounts to academic integrity, but I do want to provide context to the breathless hyperbole over the situation at UNC.

And therein lies the rub for anyone who attempts to rush to judgment before all the facts are known. Again, it is the stated position here at THF that those guilty of violating team, school, or NCAA rules must be held accountable, coaches included. But due process must be served and the integrity of those involved, and not involved, must be maintained. Strange as it may seem, some of those held out were done so with the knowledge they would probably be exonerated.

(In case you're wondering how it turned out at Wisconsin, then-coach Barry Alvarez remained at the Badgers' helm for eight more seasons, when he became athletic director. Not saying that will happen here, again just providing context.)

As for Moore and Doyel, they have the luxury of sitting in the press box and lobbing Molotov cocktails onto players and coaches with little fear of accountability. As THF noted, their points of view simply serve to drive traffic and readership. (Although you can't help but laugh at the love Doyel will no doubt get from State fans, despite the fact that he was previously Public Enemy #1 in the media for his constant derision of them over the Herb Sendek issue. Yeah, he calls them idiots, but if he slams UNC, he's OK in their book!)

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