This Week's Obligatory Scandal Post

My kids often sing a tune called "This is the Song That Never Ends." Kind of feels like that.

In Wednesday's ongoing football/academic unpleasantness news, an agreement has been reached by which Butch Davis is going to release the infamous 216 personal cell phone records. This is certainly not unexpected as Judge Howard Manning had already ordered that it happen, but the attorneys for both Davis and the media organizations suing for the records worked out the conditions under which the records would be released. Davis had originally said he would release the phone records but when Holden Thorp unceremoniously showed him the door, he told everyone to pound sand. Davis had also previously offered to show the records to the judge only, but that was rejected as well.

The thing that troubles me is that simply releasing phone records provides no context at all or clues to what the conversation was about. Davis' lawyer says that all calls, even the personal ones, will be released, but the personal calls will be redacted. Who is to determine what is personal and what is business? Davis' lawyer says that he will release redacted personal calls to avoid the appearance of dodging the issues at hand, but at the end of the day we will get details on some, redacted on others, and likely more questions than answers. The results of all this will probably please no one, but nevertheless the media gets the pound of flesh they so desire, and frankly, I am in agreement that it was shady to use a personal phone for school business, even if nothing untoward comes out of it.

The other piece of news to come out on Wednesday is that Robert Mercer, the head of the athletic academic support program at UNC, has been quietly reassigned to a new position elsewhere in the university. Mercer was the director of academic support for nearly 10 years and has been with UNC for 16 years.

For those who have become familiar with the Dan Kane style of writing, this story follows a familiar blueprint: a small nugget of new information, followed by a ton of innuendo (the famous "I'm not saying, I'm just saying" method), and ending with a recap of the entire story so far presented as if it is new. The issue is that, while both the Wiley and AFAM scandals took place on his watch, as director of the entire program, there is no proof that he knew what was going on at the advisory level. He clearly needed to go, but without proper grounds to fire him, he was reassigned.

And therein lies a major public relations fault in this entire sordid mess: at no point has anyone in any position of authority appeared to take a fall or pay a price for any role in any of this. Chancellor Holden Thorp remains on the job, and while Butch Davis was terminated, he was bought out to the tune of millions of dollars and maintained at least a semblance of plausible deniability to the very end (not to mention a cadre of loyal followers). John Blake was bought out, and although he was later named in the NCAA report, at the time there was no provable evidence of wrongdoing so he had to be bought out. Julius Nyang'oro was allowed to retire, and Jennifer Wiley and Deborah Crowder have skipped town and told investigators to take a hike.

In other words, in a situation that screams for decisive action, or at least someone's head on a stick outside South Building, nothing exists. Of course, the situation is far more complicated and nuanced than simply yelling "you're fired" to the people involved, but as this drags on and on, at some point, there needs to be someone who at least appears to be held responsible and not just shown the door. Maybe the Martin report will help that train get on the tracks.

Speaking of the Martin report, our old buddy Kane takes a swipe at that as well, singing directly from the ABCer talking points that the "independent investigation" they demanded isn't so independent after all. Kane writes that former Governor Jim Martin, who went to school and later taught at Davidson, serves on a board with Thorp and then implies in Kane style that there might somehow be a conflict of interest because of that. In a state like North Carolina, it is hard to find people as politically connected as Martin and Thorp that haven't served on some kind of board together sometime somewhere. Besides, Martin is simply the public face, as was Sam Poole two decades ago. The real work will likely be done by the outside auditing firm, and the head of the American Association of Universities will also review the results. Hard to get more independent and outside than those two entities.

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