Did Michael McAdoo's Plagiarism Force UNC to Fire Butch Davis?

The big question on everyone's mind tonight is exactly why was Butch Davis fired now? The university had stood by the coach for an entire year, but suddenly showed him the door eight days before the players arrived for camp. This was the first meeting of the board of trustees since the NCAA released their notice of allegations, so if it was truly driven by the board, it sort of makes sense. Chancellor Thorp however is saying the decision to fire was his, not the boards. This may or may not be the case – there's a rumor the UNC system president forced Thorp's hand, and also one that word of the firing leaked out in advance of the board meeting– but let's say it's the case. What had happened recently that would have changed Thorp's mind?

The first thing that comes to mind is the Michael McAdoo lawsuit, and the resulting evidence of plagiarism that came to light because of it. As part of McAdoo's effort to have his eligibility reinstated by the NCAA, his paper where he received impermissible help from a tutor that resulted in the honor court awarding a failing grade and semester suspension was submitted into evidence. SportsbyBrooks took a look at that paper and found it was heavily plagiarized, a fact that was missed by the student attorney general who prosecuted McAdoo and possibly the professor. (I say possibly, because professors often just turn these cases over to the honor court once cheating is uncovered, and I don't know what this particular professor reported when he did so. Said professor, Julius Nyang'oro, is currently out of the country, but the fact that the honor court case came after the NCAA investigation started and over a year after the class in question does not reflect well on him. It's quite possible he never reported anything to the honor court at all.)

The problem is, UNC's athletic department was also either unaware of or purposely hiding the plagiarism. In two separate instances with the NCAA, in September and December attempts to get McAdoo reinstated, UNC claims that the work is entirely McAdoo's, and in fact he only sought Wiley's help to ensure he didn't accidentally plagiarize by failing to cite references correctly. Dick Baddour makes this claim, Steve Keady of the legal counsel office makes the claim, and McAdoo himself makes the claim.

And it wasn't true. This was cut-and-dry plagiarism.

(My very charitable explanation is that McAdoo probably didn't understand he was plagiarizing, and that the citations made it kosher. This is apparently a pretty common problem. I doubt the higher-ups at UNC ever read the paper, instead going off of the e-mails Wiley sent McAdoo and the questioning of the pair. Still incredibly stupid on everybody's part, but not knowingly deceitful. But like I said, I'm being charitable.)

The plagiarism was re-reported in the News and Observer last week (days after the Daily Tar Heel published their story, I must say). The report came paired with two editorials, one calling on system president Tom Ross to step in and have Thorp and Baddour fire Butch Davis, and a second demanding the reform or abolition of the entire honor court system. Both of these were direct attacks on principles the university holds dear and appealed to people above Thorp to step in and fix a problem portrayed as ever-widening. A week later the board of trustees met, and Butch Davis is shown the door, suddenly and at a very inopportune time.

Is this what spurred everyone to action? I don't know enough to say, but if you're looking for a recent turn of events to explain things, this is the only thing that fits the bill.

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