Anyone who had "eight days before training camp opens" come forward to collect your winnings.
Let's be honest here. The moment the NCAA showed up 56 weeks ago this situation was going to be ugly. How ugly it would become was always going to be a combination of the actual charges levied and how UNC handled it. In the intervening 13 months leading up to today UNC handling can charitably be called mixed. Certainly they get points for cooperation and where the NCAA is concerned they did more than their share of appeasing. On the other hand the PR has been haphazard at best from three headed press conferences to sending confusing messages at times. What happened today takes the cake in terms of being one of the most brazenly stupefying decisions in recent memory.
Now understand, for my money, the question up for debate here is no should Davis had been fired. Historical precedent for programs under NCAA scrutiny not to mention the forces in play from the hard core Carolina Way folks put Davis on thin ice as it was. The problem here is timing. If you want to argue Davis should have been fired feel free. The issue here is doing it eight days before training camp opens throwing the current team and football program in general into tremendous turmoil. While I acknowledge the house was already on fire that doesn't mean you spray gasoline on it to make it burn faster. UNC's first and foremost responsibility at this point was to figure out the best way to guide a wounded ship back to port, repair it and move on. That meant doing it with long term planning and not screwing the current players over right before the season starts.
We can certainty speculate on what precipitated this move now versus earlier or later when it would have made more sense. It is possible Thorp was content to support Davis during the early months since nothing was concrete until the NCAA said otherwise. Players were being punished and UNC could use that as proof of cooperation. Then came the notice of allegations which detailed John Blake and Jennifer Wiley's roles. That was followed by the subsequent parking tickets issues and Michael McAdoo's lawsuit which brought undiscovered plagiarism to light. At this point the honor court has been brought into question and the academic integrity of the school was under assault even more. While the case really didn't change that much, the depth and breadth of the scandal was realized which obviously was too much for Thorp to stomach. The problem for Thorp is Bob Winston and possibly others on the BOT supported Davis. That changed this month and Thorp must have decided he could do this with their support.
So it might be the right move all things considered but it has been done at the wrong time. While I completely respect the obligation Thorp might feel to protecting the integrity of UNC, that train left the station long ago. If Thorp is willing do it now for the sake of all that is just and good why not do it after last season ended? Perhaps Thorp will tell us but the bottom line is there were windows during which this could have been done and caused far less damage. Firing Davis now really gains you nothing and makes a bad situation worse which I didn't think was possible. Now it looks like UNC has no clue what it's doing, makes the process for hiring the next coach even more difficult because Dick Baddour is still the freaking AD. Thorp had his chance before now and refused to take it. If he really, in his heart of hearts, wanted to fire Davis, there is still an obligation to do it in a way that does the least amount of damage. Thorp chose not to do that and I cannot imagine this ending well at all. This kind of decision impacts the ability to hire the next coach, the behavior of donors and destroys recruiting. There are simply better ways to handle this to safeguard those areas and still repair the integrity of the school.
Of course the real
victim in all this is Gerald Henderson victims here are the players who have done nothing wrong. The current team members has endured the darkest days of this scandal and were looking forward to a season where the uncertainty of losing players to NCAA sanctions had been removed. Now their head coach has been fired in what could be seen as a signal from the chancellor that he doesn't give a crap about them or the current season. That is probably a little harsh but I think the players deserve better. Its not their fault Davis hired Blake. Its not their fault other players broke rules. They did their part to represent the school and do it the right way. Leaving Davis in place to coach this season and afford them that stability would not have cost UNC any more than has already been taken in this scandal.
As bad as this look now, I hold out hope UNC might reap some benefit from it. Ohio St. apparently got points for Jim Tressell being shown the door. Thorp will likely be asked tomorrow if this is part of UNC's response to the NCAA. If the players and coaches respond in a big way, the season may yet have value. At any rate, this 13 month NCAA scandal involving football continues to blow my mind with the twists and turns it takes. I have never been a fan of roller coasters or rides that test my gastrointestinal fortitude. In that spirit I say, "Someone please stop this ride, I really want to get off now."