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UNC Under Siege Day 8, Part II: Should Butch Davis Be Talking?

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UNC under siege - day 8

The News and Observer's Luke DeCock says the time has come for UNC's Butch Davis to break the silence imposed by AD Dick Baddour and comment on the NCAA's investigation into agent contact with Tar Heel players.

North Carolina has lowered a curtain of silence, referring all inquiries to athletic director Dick Baddour, who acknowledged last week that an investigation was under way but has consistently declined to comment beyond that, citing instructions issued by the NCAA.

"When they were here, they told us they do not want us commenting on the investigation," North Carolina associate athletic director for communications Steve Kirschner said. "As Dick Baddour has said, we will cooperate completely with the NCAA. Part of cooperating is doing what they told us to do and not commenting on it. To this point, we have not even confirmed what sport is involved. We certainly have not confirmed what the issue is."

But South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier has spoken freely about the NCAA's inquiries into tight end Weslye Saunders, the son of News & Observer metro columnist Barry Saunders and a Durham native. (Barry Saunders had declined to comment until Tuesday, when he said his son went to Miami for spring break but did not travel with Austin and Little.)

Alabama coach Nick Saban has spoken freely about the increasing threat agents present to the college game, even as one of his own players, defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, has been swept into the investigation.

There are an increasing number of voices speaking with insight and intelligence about the subversive role and influence of agents, many from schools currently under investigation. None of them is coming from Chapel Hill. So far, Little's father has said more about the probe than anyone at the university.

"I don't know what Coach Spurrier and Coach Saban were told. ... They may be under different circumstances, different directives, they may have had different people from the NCAA talking to them," Kirschner said. "I don't know. I do know what we were told, and I know what direction the NCAA gave us."

In an e-mail, NCAA associate director for public and media relations Stacey Osburn wrote, "The NCAA does not prohibit the schools under investigation to comment to the media, however, they are advised not to make any public comment that could hamper the investigation."

The fact Saban and Spurrier have been vocal about agent involvement with their players is taken to mean that Butch Davis should be as well. DeCock also called the NCAA to find out what the official policy was and was told by someone in the media relations department that UNC could speak on the issue as long as they did not interfere with the investigation. I am sure that is fine, but Kirschner makes a salient point. UNC was told to keep quiet by the investigators during the visit to Chapel Hill. Yes, as a general rule, maybe schools can normally offer comments on an investigation so Stacy Osburn is probably correct. However I am going to go out on a limb and assume Ms. Osburn has not spoken to the investigators on the ground who gave UNC the directive to shut their pie holes. Call me crazy but it is entirely possible the investigators opted to restrict the comments UNC could make for a variety of reasons. The foremost one being they knew they were initiating multiple inquiries into other schools and wanted to maintain the element of surprise as long as possible. Yes, seriously. Given the NCAA was gleaning information from Twitter and sources that could be deleted, I imagine they would want to move as covertly as possible in an effort to uncover as much malfeasance as possible.
In addition, UNC is perfectly willing to do whatever the NCAA asks in hopes full cooperation means something down the road. The real downside to UNC's silence is it does create a vacuum in the public realm. Presently that vacuum is being filled by the media in general and ABC blogs willing to put anything and everything out there while painting it(with glee) in the worst possible light. It is a Catch-22. However, it is clear UNC has decided their best move is to afford the NCAA full cooperation which includes complete silence during the course of the investigation. It is a move which creates PR issues in the short term but in the long term may help them if the NCAA takes their cooperation into consideration.
Also, there is so much noise out there at present over this investigation, I am not sure UNC would be able to provide enough information to stem the tide. No one is going to reveal any details nor can anyone at UNC talked about process or timetable. I guess what people want is for Butch Davis to come out preaching against the agents but doing so would look like he is copying Saban. The only thing Davis can do as it pertains to the investigation is suspend a player indefinitely pending the conclusion of the review. Doing that would change the conversation, at least for a news cycle. Anything else will simply be lost in the noise or worse open the door for potential gaffes which could hurt UNC further.
Davis is set to speak at the Triangle Pigskin Preview today. If it goes the way it normally goes with Davis he will not offer anything other than a roundabout no comment. Expect the media and ABC crowd to be sorely disappointed.