Two weeks before practice starts? What could go wrong?
This is not a new idea. Heck we have readers of this blog who think it would be a splendid idea if UNC cleaned house starting with Butch Davis and ending up in the chancellor's office. After all we are talking about a massive scandal touching on impermissible benefits and academic fraud. Suggesting Davis and the gang should be shown the door is a discussion that has merit albeit one that will ultimately give way to real world forces of money and power. That doesn't stop prolific writer of all things Tar Heel Art Chansky from trying. The full piece can be found here. Chansky argues that "enough is enough" and the time has come for UNC to part ways with Butch Davis, let Dick Baddour retire and set in motion the processes to hire both a new AD and football coach. Unfortunately for Chansky there are some major if not fatal flaws in his argument.
The first is the notion that Ohio St. is some sort of model UNC should be following. According to Chansky, Ohio St had the foresight or something to fire Jim Tressel "immediately" when the scandal started in Columbus. Nothing could be further from the truth. OSU did everything in their power to keep Tressel. School president Gordon Gee joked(badly) that Tressel would end up firing him. When the OSU issues were just a few players selling memorabilia for cash, the Buckeyes were perfectly happy to keep Tressel. Later when it was revealed Tressel had advance knowledge of the violations and covered it up, OSU did not jump at the opportunity to jettison Tressel. Only after the evidence piled up and Tressel was revealed to have lied to practically everyone in his orbit did OSU feel the need to do anything about.
OSU didn't rid themselves of Tressel to set in motion some grand plan for the future. The Buckeyes dumped Tressel because he was radioactive and would likely be saddled with a show-cause by the time the NCAA finishes their job. In addition to all of this we are talking about a school that asked the NCAA to allow suspended players to take part in the Sugar Bowl instead of serving their suspensions straight away. Compare that to UNC's overly cautious actions regarding players who did not do anything wrong but had questions. If the circumstances were reversed and Tressel's name was absent from the notice of allegations does anyone not think he would still be head coach in Columbus? OSU didn't plan for the future they dealt with a problem because they had no choice.
The second flaw is Chansky seems to think UNC is facing another season of major media scrutiny and removing Butch Davis somehow alleviates that. He also thinks that Davis will be answering questions about the scandal every time he sees a reported. I'm sorry but I just don't buy that. There will be some questions which will almost immediately be shot down with a tidy "no comment." When the Committee on Infractions hearing occurs on October 28th, there will be additional media attention surrounding that. Whether Davis is the head coach or not, the media attention is going to be much the same. The current team and the coming season are post-investigation in every way. Outside of Charles Brown and a couple of other players, no one else on the roster was directly affected by the NCAA probe. In Brown's case he was convicted by the honor court and must sit a one game suspension for improper benefits. Should Brown be thrown off the team seeing there will be questions for him about the NCAA issues?
Aside from that, Chansky appears to be painting the worst case scenario based on sensationalized headlines from other media outlets, some of who think UNC will get hammered worse than USC. He also thinks the Georgia Tech penalties are instructive which simply doesn't fly. First of all, no one knows how the NCAA will act. Precedent is of little value in trying to figure out how a school or person might be penalized. The details of the case are different. However since Chansky has decided to mention both USC and Georgia Tech it should be pointed out the NCAA made a point of hammering them on the basis of non-cooperation. By all accounts UNC has cooperated and some of the actions taken over the past year in holding out players could serve to mitigate some of the forthcoming penalties.
Finally, Chansky does not address the real bugaboos that make firing Davis impractical and those are timing and money. Davis was not named in the notice of allegations and while Chansky says Davis' contract gives UNC clearance to fire him, we all know that won't happen without a significant financial commitment towards a buyout. Davis not being cited by the NCAA makes firing him with cause a tough proposition, especially given UNC's use of the "he didn't know" defense. The time is also awful. Chansky wants to do it now to set the table for the future but for me firing Davis now doesn't give you anything you wouldn't have in December if Davis were to leave then. To do it now throws the current season into chaos. Most people don't take into account that the Tar Heel football players all really like Davis and will move heaven and earth for him. Removing him from the team and turning it over to the assistants is unfair to them and gains you very little. Chansky does say Baddour should retire when his contract expires next June which would allow UNC to hire a new AD who could then in turn hire a new football coach. However wouldn't that need to happen now? Should Baddour retire now so a new AD could come in and work with UNC through the COI hearings and be there should Davis leave after the season ends? I am not saying Baddour should retire now but I do think this is where Chansky's argument gets convoluted. Essentially it makes no sense to do anything to Davis right now because you cannot make a hire of a good coach. It makes even less sense to fire Davis before you have a new AD in place to handle the new hire.
It should be noted that Chansky is an old school, Carolina Way guy. He believes in the notion that UNC is different. Doing things the "right way" is important to him as it should be to anyone who professes to be a Tar Heel fan. Like many of us, Chansky is lamenting the loss of that "special" reputation UNC had of being clean across the board. There is nothing wrong with any of that since many UNC fans share his sentiment. However, I also understand there are certain realities that make firing the head football coach two weeks before the season starts a virtual impossibility. The absence of Davis' name on the notice of allegations makes that especially more difficult. I think Davis should be held accountable and had Chansky argued that point in more detail, I am not sure I would have objected. However Chansky decided to talk about Ohio State and proffer misinformed perceptions about the scandal largely peddled by the overhyped media. Heck, Chansky even references Jennifer Wiley's private employ by Davis as something the NCAA has an issue with when it is not considered a violation nor did it show up in the notice of allegations. In short, Chansky's argument falls flat because it simply does not leverage the correct issues while relying on questionable material and examples.
I get what Chansky is after here but the truth is the general timing is simply too tricky. Given that UNC has stuck it out with Davis(and Baddour to a lesser extent) this long, these two should have to face the music with the COI in October. After that, the scandal is basically over save the penalties. The season will finish up a month later and then all the parties involved can make some decisions on how to move forward. Until then let the season ride out. In my opinion the media scrutiny won't be what it was last season when there were active players being held out and constant questions about emerging new facts. Most of the information is out there, UNC knows what the NCAA thinks and when the next step will take place. It is in as much of a holding pattern as it can get. Let the season play and once that is done then the power that be can take a look at the next step.