UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Holden Thorp said this morning that while he still has questions about why Butch Davis didn't know more about questionable behavior by his football players, the football coach didn't play a role in anything under investigation by the NCAA.
"We don't have any evidence that Coach Davis knew about or took part in any of the things that happened," Thorp said Thursday in a meeting of a committee of the UNC system's Board of Governors, which sets policy for all public universities including Carolina.
"Some have had agent issues and some have had academic issues," Thorp said. "And some have had both."
Thorp reiterated his support for Davis.
"There's no information to indicate that he participated in or knew of any wrongdoing. Mr. Baddour and I are not having meetings deciding his future. He's our football coach," Thorp said.
The salient point where the NCAA and Butch Davis is concerned is not so much whether Davis knew or not. At this point the premise is widely accepted by people who have a grasp of English and logic that Davis probably did not know he had several players taking improper benefits. I have no issue with that premise. The question on which this whole scandal hinges for Davis is whether he should have known what was happening with his players? There is also the bonus round question of whether Davis should have known about John Blake's reputation or his previous relationship with Gary Wichard? In my opinion these questions are the basis on which the NCAA is working the case.
Bear in mind the distinction is not an irrelevant one. Davis not knowing possibly spares UNC football from receiving a harsher penalty from the NCAA.If it were proven Davis knew then I am pretty sure you are talking about the ABCer's favorite charge "loss of institutional control." If, however, the NCAA determines Davis did not know but should have then you are looking at "failure to monitor" and perhaps "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance" which are lesser charges in general. In short, just because Thorp says Davis was not directly involved does not mean the NCAA is going to necessarily exonerate the head coach. That being said, the NCAA did give Michigan's Rich Rodriquez a free pass for issues one would think are clearly the responsibility of the head coach. Then again comparing "violating practice rules" to "agent benefits" is like the difference between petty theft and murder given the NCAA's mood of late.
The interesting aspect of Thorp's comments is he is insulating himself publicly for all contingencies. Thorp voices support for Davis and tells the Board of Governors they have found no evidence Davis was directly involved in the violations. At the same time Thorp openly asks how and why it happened as well as wondering why Davis did not know what was happening. In other words he is saying he supports Davis and finds no evidence the head coach did nothing directly to cause the violations but it is possible Davis should have been paying closer attention.[Note: Thorp goes even further with his caveat according to WTVD's Mark Armstrong who tweeted: "Interesting from Thorp on Butch. Asked directly by our reporter, Thorp: 'I didn't say he didn't know, I said there's no evidence he knew.'"] Thorp is covering all his bases here just in case and because his question of why Davis did not know is valid. Ultimately the NCAA is going to answer the questions of why Davis did not know and should he had known about improper benefits, John Blake's relationships and possibly the involvement of the tutor. It is those answers which will serve as the foundation for whatever penalties get served up. It also may implicate Davis in that "buck stops here" sort of way which puts him in a precarious position.
Other tidbits from the BOG meeting:
- The NCAA has visited UNC six times since this whole business started. The Secretary of State's office has been by twice. Speaking of which, now that Elaine Marshall is done getting pasted in her run for the U.S. Senate, will she actually press forward with her probe in agent violations of NC state law considering it now has zero political value?
- Dick Baddour said they should have the cases of Devon Ramsay and Michael McAdoo wrapped up before the end of the season. Translation: Neither one of those guys are playing this year.
- Thorp says the investigation will be over soon. In this case "soon" means not anywhere near as fast as you want it to be over.