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Dickie's Got Mail!

Let me first say I openly wonder why any grown man would allow himself to be called "Dickie."

Last weekend, UNC released over one thousand emails and letters sent to the UNC administration from concerned alumni, business partners as well as emails exchanges between Chancellor Holden Thorp, AD Dick Baddour, UNC System president Erskine Bowles and head football coach Butch Davis. Local media continues to review the emails and have only offered summaries of the contents with a handful of specifics on Twitter. One email that was released in full came from Butch Davis to Dick Baddour addressing Davis' concern that the stress and uncertainty created by the NCAA investigation might lead some of the players involved to act out in potentially destructive ways. The full email, as provided by WTVD, can be found here.

Davis starts the email by referencing two football players who recently committed suicide due to "depression, frustration and uncertainty in their future." Davis goes on to outline for Baddour how players involved in the investigation frustrated and harboring "pent up anger" over their circumstances. The primary concern here was that these feelings might manifest themselves in the form of substance abuse, DUIs, fights on the team or a confrontation of some sort in public, namely on Franklin St. According to Davis, this 2010 season and the future of some of these players was "everything to them and their families." In light of these concerns, Davis outlines steps that should be taken to ensure the players were receiving proper counseling to deal with the situation.

Needless to say the email is interesting and quite stark. In fact, here at THF, we are wondering how this email even saw the light of day. A discussion of players' potential behavioral or mental health issues plus any possible treatments most certainly would fall under the scope of privacy laws meaning UNC should not have to release it. Granted, anyone with a brain could tell you UNC players were probably angry, frustrated and possibly depressed over not knowing when or how the investigation would play out. Davis astutely notes that for some of these players playing football now and in the NFL is incredibly important for many reasons not to least of which is financial gain that could help a player's family situation. Yes, the players are partly to blame for making poor decisions though that still does not mean they should not receive assistance from the school to help them through the situation.

Is Davis being a tad over the top citing player suicides? Maybe, but he also is making a point he wants taken seriously. That is not to say Baddour or Thorp would ignore Davis' request. Davis is simply making certain the point is clear. Overall, this email shows Davis dealing with a side of the investigation the public has no clue about. Setting aside who made the mess, you are still dealing with 18-22 year old men who are dealing with the pressure of playing football, going to school and a rush of temptations from those who do not have their best interest at heart. Yes, they made some bad decisions and most of them have said they are willing to own what they have done. However, there is plenty to be pissed off about where the NCAA is concerned and their handling of individual cases. The fact Davis had his eye on this issue at this point in the season is a credit to him regardless of the path taken to get there.

One other email (thread?) that has come to light details a discussion between Bowles and Thorp expressing concern that Butch Davis had not activated his outrage subroutine in light of revelations from Yahoo! Sports Charles Robinson that assistant coach John Blake was taking money from NFL agent Gary Wichard. Davis had done an interview and glossed over the issue as a "private" matter for Blake which he would not have necessarily known about. This was not sufficient for Bowles, who was once chief of staff for former President Bill Clinton so yeah, he might know a thing or two about this sort of thing.  Thorp gave instructions to Davis for his next media appearance which I can only assume included the words "throw John Blake under the *&%$#@ bus!" Oh come on, you can totally see Thorp dropping the profanity on Davis right? Interesting to note that regardless of what Thorp may have told him, Davis did not really go all in on making Blake a speed bump until five days later when he ended a weekly press conference with the now infamous "I'm sorry I ever trusted John Blake."

First of all, I would love to see the whole email thread just to get a full grasp of the context and not just what the N&O decides to give us. Still, this kind of email does not cast UNC in the best light unless you understand that these kind of behind the scenes discussions about public relations go on all the time. You will rarely get raw, unchecked emotions from a public figure unless it's Roy Williams and I can only imagine what kinds of emails get passed around the UNC administration concerning some of Roy's more colorful moments. You are also talking about Butch Davis who never gets worked up about anything when in front of the media. His media savvy and mastery of coachspeak generally serves UNC and his program well. In this case, he may have been better served to have show a little more raw emotion over Blake but it is what it is.

It is important to remember that just because Bowles felt the need to say "show outrage" does not mean it was not being felt privately by the principals involved. Thorp, Baddour and Davis were probably pissed off over Blake but that does not mean they would run to the nearest camera and say that. Bowles' email instructs Thorp to show publicly what he knows they are saying and feeling privately about Blake. Also, public relations is about presenting an image. This might come as a galloping shock to some but there times when someone like Bowles might have to give instructions on how to best serve that image to the public. In this case, Bowles felt it was important to remind Thorp (and by extension Davis and Baddour) that showing publicly the outrage they felt privately would help UNC's image, especially among alumni and fans.

While this email will draw tons of criticism from ABCers as proof UNC's "Carolina Way" is all a lie and facade created for public consumption, I would counter by saying "so you'd have no issue with your school releasing private emails between your chancellor, AD and major revenue coaches?" Emails that people assume will never see the light of day are by the very nature not going to present the folks involved in the best light. That is why they are considered private. Any public records request levied against any school, whether it be UNC or NC State or UNC Pembroke, is going to turn up emails like this which speak to massaging the public image. This comes off like a no-brainer but managing the PR game is testy business. Not to mention managing PR is like making hot dogs; the process is not always fun to watch.

As for when the NCAA investigation might be wrapping up, Dick Baddour spoke to Adam Gold and Joe Ovies on Thursday on 99.9 The Fan. Baddour said they were "days" away from closing the information gathering portion of the investigation. Yes, Baddour has said that before but he really means it this time! Actually, Baddour did say specifically that they were working on a couple of additional interviews which must be the last ones the NCAA wants to do. Assuming those do not lead to anything else, Baddour's assessment is probably correct. Baddour was also asked about a letter of inquiry from the NCAA and said that actually came in the form of a phone call back in July. He did say it was possible UNC could still receive a letter of inquiry which would probably be followed in short order by a notice of allegations. In other words, the letter of inquiry would be pro forma as a part of the stated process. Since the investigation has already happened the NCAA would simply send that letter then move to the next step which is the notice of allegations.

What that means is we sit and wait for the NCAA to make the next move which might very well be next month or six months from now.