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Oddsmakers: UNC Football Edition

With apologies to one of my favorite Pardon the Interruption games, here is a look at some possible odds as we move forward in the football investigations with this week's big news:

What are the chances the UNC football staff really didn't know about the improper benefits received by Austin, Little, and Quinn?

I am inclined to believe this a little more after learning the nature of the gifts and that there was lying to the NCAA going on. The primary material gifts given to Little and Quinn were jewelry, specifically earrings and watches. These are not necessarily the kinds of items that draw attention, like say, cars or electronics. If these guys never wore the jewelry around coaches, maybe even purposefully hiding it, then it is more understandable how coaches would not have known. Same thing for the trips. If a staff member asks Greg Little where he is going for the weekend and Little says he is going home to Durham but goes to the Bahamas instead, is the football staff supposed to do bed checks at home?

For what it's worth, agent Josh Luchs, who wrote the bombshell Sports Illustrated article in which he admitted paying players, said today on ESPN's Mike & Mike Show that it was his opinion that Butch Davis and his staff probably did not know everything going on nor should they be expected to (skip to the 6:00 mark to hear the Davis comments).

Odds: 85%

What are the chances any of the remaining withheld/suspended players see the field this year?

If the Jonathan Smith case is any indication, not good. There is no reason to think any other players will fare better in the honor court process. On the other hand, Da'Norris Searcy and Shaun Draughn were withheld but with no allegations of wrongdoing or explanation for their withholding. I would think that if that were the case for Ryan Houston and the other guys they would have been cleared by now.

The interesting part is that ESPN's Joe Schad reported that everyone remaining was involved in the academic investigation, but that seems to be at odds with the general definition of "withheld" vs. "ineligible". Michael McAdoo and Charles Brown were "ineligible" and have been widely rumored to be part of the agent prong.  As for Devon Ramsey, at this point, who knows, but I would again point to the Searcy and Draughn examples before judgment of public opinion is heaped on Ramsey.

Odds: 15%

What are the chances that Butch Davis returns for a 5th season in Chapel Hill?

Contrary to message board rumors, there is probably no consensus of opinion on Davis and his future at UNC among the big-wigs and the decision-makers. Of course there is a crowd that wants him fired immediately if not sooner, and there is a crowd that wants him named coach for life. As usual, the logical path is somewhere down the middle.

It is interesting to try and read the tea leaves a little bit, as Chancellor Holden Thorp has put a little public distance between himself and Davis while Dick Baddour professes unceasing confidence. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, even if Thorp decided today he wanted Davis gone, short of an NCAA violation tied directly to him, Davis could not be let go without a costly settlement. Second, letting Davis go now puts every one of UNC's recruits in play for other schools to pick off, even more so than is happening now with the general uncertainty surrounding the program. So you can rest assured the public face will be 100% behind Davis right up until the ink is dry on the separation agreement.

To borrow THF's term, there are still too many moving parts to accurately predict how all of this will work out for Davis. The conventional wisdom says he probably cannot survive, but a lot will rest on how big the NCAA's hammer is when it drops on the football program.

Odds: 25%

What are the chances the NCAA hangs the dreaded "Lack of Institutional Control" label on UNC?

Ah, lack of institutional control, also known as the NCAA's mark of shame. This is the phrase that identifies renegade programs all over the country since the NCAA death penalty is pretty much off the table these days, and the four words State fans pray to God, Allah, and Dick Sheridan every night that get stuck to Carolina in this case. As THF famously said, NCSU fans are like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, tapping their red shoes together saying "lack of institutional control...lack of institutional control..." while hoping the Witch of the NCAA waves a wand and grants their wish.

If you want a good play-by-play of what defines lack of institutional control, check out Greg Barnes' piece at Inside Carolina. The problem arises when pundits (like Michael Wilbon on Tuesday's PTI) use the phrase in place of the less severe but still serious "failure to monitor".

I think Carolina has a number of things going for it when it comes to LOIC, such as the certifications for exemplary compliance previously received and a half-century of good behavior with the NCAA. Specifically, I think UNC escapes on the agent issue because ultimately the decision to accept improper benefits rests with the individuals themselves and not anything the university is directly responsible for.  If UNC has agent education (and it does) and players are properly informed of the consequences of dealing with agents and players do it anyway, the culpability of the school is limited. I also think UNC gets by on the tutor issue if  the single rogue tutor theory plays out, where she helped a handful of players and mostly beyond the purview of the university if she was doing this after she graduated.

The John Blake connection is the one most likely to hang the scarlet letters around the school's neck, but even then there is a plausible deniability on Carolina's part. Blake lied on his resume to UNC about his affiliation with Gary Wichard and has seemingly not been all that forthcoming with his attorneys either. Plus, Blake was apparently vetted with the NCAA when he was hired, so UNC can always play the "but you told us he was OK" card. Still, if the NCAA is trying to root out agent involvement in programs, they may decide to drop the hammer on UNC to scare the hell out of any other coach or program who might possibly ever have any agent connection.

Quick side note for anyone who wants to compare the UNC situation with other famous NCAA cases:

  • SMU received the death penalty for being a repeat offender after having had a major violation just four years before and after continuing to pay players after the NCAA investigation and with the knowledge of university officials. Nothing like that has happened at UNC.
  • USC received severe sanctions due to the magnitude of the benefits, the length of time, and the lack of cooperation from the football program and the school. Austin, Little, and Quinn's benefits combined don't reach the amount Reggie Bush received in just one of the three years he was on the take at USC, and as far as we know, no UNC coaches have lied to the NCAA.
  • Florida State's academic scandal was tied to 61 athletes over 10 sports over a couple of years. UNC's issue seems to be related to one tutor and 6 or 7 players.
  • N.C. State's "just some guys selling shoes and tickets" was actually 650 ticket violations over four years, and after State had self-reported ticket issues four years prior. The true number of shoe violations was not known because the school never kept records of who was getting shoes and how many they were getting.  The NCAA report citing LOIC said that while the offenses themselves were minor, it was the sheer volume (possibly approaching 1,000 individual violations counting shoes and tickets together), the length of time (over 3-4 years), and the fact that the school itself was responsible for ticket and equipment distribution and had faulty procedures in place and did not correct after a self-reporting. Therefore, when you have possibly 1,000 violations in areas the institution is directly in charge of, you have a lack of institutional control.

(It is also important to note that the NCAA never investigated the academic side of NCSU basketball. That was the university itself and later the Poole Commission. The NCAA was brought in only to investigate because of the allegations in the infamous Personal Fouls book. I always chuckle at the irony of StateFan's charge that UNC was somehow hiding something because the tutor issue was only found out in the course of the agent investigation, when State's academic woes - which were systemic and team-wide - were only revealed as a result of the fallout from that garbage book. But I digress...)

I would like to think UNC has enough in the mitigating factors column to avoid LOIC, plus one would hope this is where UNC's docile cooperation would finally pay off, in that there are stiff individual penalties but lighter institutional penalties, but this is uncharted territory and the NCAA has seemed to be off-book anyway, so confidence is not high. Maybe UNC gets off with failure to monitor, maybe not.

Odds: 45%

What are the chances UNC breaks the Wahoo curse in Charlottesville this weekend?

Ahh, Charlottesville, the Bermuda Triangle of UNC football. On paper, this should be the year, but that has happened before (blocking out painful memories of Chris Keldorf and 1996...). I can't push and say 50/50, so...

Odds: 51%

That's it - Oddsmakers is 100% over. Tune in tomorrow to see what Thursday brings this time...