On Monday, The Daily Tar Heel's editorial board spoke out in favor of dismissing Butch Davis once the season was completed. Hardly a surprising move considering the nature of the two investigations plaguing UNC football and the fact they aren't the first to do so. On Tuesday, UNC AD Dick Baddour responded via a letter to the editor. Wait...people still do that?
As Director of Athletics, I hired Butch Davis to lead our football program because he was an outstanding coach who shared the core values that we try to uphold at the University of North Carolina. Those include academic excellence, integrity and fair play. He taught those values as head coach at the University of Miami and key administrators at that school saluted him for raising the standards and positively changing the culture within their program.
We are currently faced with several issues, which we deeply regret. Monday’s editorial (“Davis should go,” Oct. 4) stated that Coach Davis should have or could have known of alleged misconduct, but there is no information that says he knew and I believe that to be the case.
Butch Davis deeply regrets what has happened and has accepted responsibility for the circumstances we are dealing with. He also regrets not knowing and is changing his management practices to help him become better aware of what is happening in and around the program. He understands that regardless of his knowledge or approval, players and coaches are operating under his watch as the head coach.
He, like all of us in the athletic department, is committed to finding long-term solutions so we can move our program forward in a way that can make everyone who loves this University proud. Winning games is important, but representing the University of North Carolina in a first-class manner is unquestionably greater. Coach Davis wants to be part of those solutions and I feel strongly that he will do that as our football coach.
Director of athletics
The single most important line in this letter when it comes to understanding Baddour's position is the first. Baddour hired Davis which means his future is pretty much attached to Davis' future. If, at the end of the season, Davis is shown the door, Baddour will go at some point afterward. Then again, I half think Baddour will end up retiring within a year anyway regardless how this turns out.
Baddour's present support goes beyond just his own personal situation. It is clear Baddour, Holden Thorp and many others truly believe Davis is largely above direct blame for the current issues. And they are not wrong when it comes to whether Davis actually broke any rules himself. Yes, we can talk about where bucks stop, who is ultimately responsible, what/when Davis knew this, that or the other. As for direct knowledge and purposeful action it is likely Davis is not going to be found culpable of actual rule violations. The degree to which Davis will be held accountable for a potentially sullied football program not to mention damage to the university's reputation is another matter entirely. This situation will have to reach a point where the final determination is made before you possibly see a shift from the administration. Until then Davis is going to enjoy the public support of Baddour and Thorp.
It also important to understand why this kind stance makes sense right now. First of all, it would be a tad rash for responsible administrators to act prior to the full NCAA report coming down detailing what violations have occurred along with the appropriate penalties. Those penalties will have a huge impact on UNC's ability to attract another coach should they decide at that point to let Davis go or he leaves on his own. Having a lay of the land before making a decision on the coach is the wise move. Secondly, dumping Davis or even hinting at it is a clear signal you intend to implode the program for the foreseeable future. Not only does it destroy the current season which hurts players who did nothing wrong. It also guarantees committed recruits will de-commit in short order. Wrecking the current season further, undermining the future and setting the wheels in motion for a coaching search without knowing what the situation will be next year or any viable candidates would be the worst way to manage the situation.
The bottom line is the UNC administrators have to manage the coaching situation as though it will remain intact until their collective hands are forced otherwise. They also have to be careful not to paint themselves into a corner but that is sort of unavoidable. If you offer full support advancing the notion Butch Davis is the right man to fix the issues that have arisen, that does not really leave an out. If it becomes necessary for Davis to leave, watching Baddour and Thorp pivot on the issue is going to be interesting to say the least. For now you have to assume that despite the stream of media reports casting this in the worst possible light, UNC has a full grasp on what the NCAA knows to the point they feel comfortable offering this level of support. Even if that was not the case and they know how this is going to end, telling the world that by acting against Davis is not going to help. For now, Davis is staying, Baddour's support is not waning and we all wait for the NCAA to finish.