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Talking Discipline

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One of the little talked about aspects of the UNC program so far is the discipline system Butch Davis has instituted. The N&O takes a look at it and apparently Davis means business.

North Carolina safety Cooter Arnold will miss his second game this weekend for breaking team rules.

And although teammates may miss him on the field, the reserve's indefinite suspension -- coach Butch Davis' third major disciplinary action since he was hired in November -- has sent a positive message through the locker room.

"There's no favorites here,'' senior center Scott Lenahan said. "Everybody's held to the same standard; there's no one person that's above the team. ... There's no more saying, 'This person screwed up, they'll probably get off because they're so-and-so.' There's nothing like that anymore."

Davis has declined to say what policies were broken when he dismissed former starting offensive lineman Charleston Gray in February; suspended Barrington Edwards (who did not return) in March; and disciplined Arnold, who had dropped to third string at safety, last month. Arnold's status will be revisited during the Oct. 20 bye week, Davis said Wednesday.

Criminal records checks of Gray, Edwards and Arnold after their disciplinary actions gave no indication that they have been arrested.

I have actually heard some ABCers cite these three suspensions as a sign Davis is running a dirty program.  In actuality Davis seems to be attempting to strike at discipline issues as preemptively as he possibly can.  Coach Davis is sending clear signals to his players that infractions of team rules will land you in serious trouble to the point it hopefully deters players from breaking rules outside the team. Of course the biggest problem Davis has faced is reversing the very inconsistent disciplinary system under The Coach Who Shall Not Be Named:

Players say instituting a disciplined atmosphere has helped instill a sense of team worth. Coaches last year told players to show up on time for team meetings, sit in the front of their classes, take notes.

But there was inconsistent follow-through if it didn't occur, senior defensive lineman Kentwan Balmer said.

Not anymore.

"In the past, you might be able to get away with a few things, and then the whole thing blows up,'' Balmer said. "But [Coach Davis] is going to nip it in the bud from the first. He's not going to let anything get started. If you're going to be a problem, he's going to let you know up front that you're on your last leg or there's no gray area or whatever."

The Coach Who Shall Not Be Named actually had a reputation of being a hard disciplinarian and in fact his willingness to cut guys loose basically gutted one of the better recruiting classes of his tenure.  That being said, there are also seemed to be some inconsistency in how discipline was meted out under the old regime, something the player apparently noticed right away.  Davis is very interested in controlling matters as the simplest level to keep matters from escalating.  If the discipline is consistent not only is it fair but players understand the expectations the staff has of them.

More than fearing punishment, Lenahan said, the Tar Heels now also fear disappointing their new coach, who has upgraded the locker room and weight rooms and made them feel like winners. That's resulted in more self-governing on the team.

"Sometimes, that's enough in itself, to walk in late and have the team looking at you, knowing what they're thinking, like, 'C'mon, man.' " Lenahan said. "I don't want to have five guys come up to me after a meeting and ask, 'Why were you late?' "

Two things.  The first is the carrot and the stick.  Sure Davis is willing to use the stick and mete out punishment but he has also dangled the carrot out there by upgrading the locker room and weight facilities. Positive reinforcement can be almost as powerful if not more so than negative reinforcement.  Secondly is how setting up such a system causes the players to govern themselves.  A unified team on the same page in terms of the rules can create positive peer pressure as well as deter any one person from doing anything detrimental to the team.

Davis has long been considered a disciplinarian. When he was hired as Miami's head coach in 1995, he brought order to a program that one out of every seven players had been arrested the previous year, according to The Palm Beach Post, and had earned a cocky reputation.

He didn't hesitate to suspend or dismiss players there, either.

"Coach Davis gives you freedom, but he's not going to put up with nonsense, as you can see,'' Balmer said. "... Charleston was a three-year starter, Barrington played a big role last season and Cooter being the prize athlete that he is.

"... If he'll let those guys go, that could easily be myself or anyone else if you get on his bad side, because he's not going to put up with any foolishness."

I would just like to point at these concluding paragraphs are chock full of material than can be used to respond to ABCers such as the fact Davis initiated the cleanup in Miami and that he is also willing to suspend key players as well as reserves.  Uniform punishment, consistency with the rules and a good balance between positive and negative reinforcement.  Just another impressive part of the Butch Davis coaching regime.