First stop, the op-ed page of the Raleigh News and Observer. Second stop, YouTube video. Wait, what?
Former UNC football coach Butch Davis has apparently launched an all-out image rehab blitz with an op-ed piece in Tuesday's N&O, followed by a nine-minute YouTube video in which he re-hashes the editorial plus addresses some of the issues that swirled around the Carolina football program during his tenure.
I must admit I had already written a post analyzing the N&O piece but before I could get that up, the video dropped and added an entirely new wrinkle to the story. The newspaper article highlights what Davis believes to be his commitment to academics, noting his family's educational achievements and touting UNC's graduation rate and SAT scores, and then in typical Davis fashion, drops a reminder of how he cleaned up Miami. And, for good measure, he gets in a dig at Holden Thorp and reminds everyone how he was never named in any allegations by the NCAA. But for the most part, as Joe Ovies of 99.9 The Fan tweeted, there were lots of words but not much substance.
Later Tuesday morning the YouTube video appeared, in which Davis addresses not only those things mentioned in the N&O but pretty much every issue that has dogged Davis over the past 18 months.
You can watch the video for yourself and draw your own conclusions, but here is what Davis has to say about the hot button issues:
The Blue Zone: Wasn't his idea. Was pitched to him at his initial interview. But he gave a bunch of money to it.
John Blake: Even though he knew Blake for 30 years, they only actually coached together for five before UNC. Didn't know about Blake's relationship with Wichard. Tries to throw UNC under the bus by saying university was responsible for background checks and others he recommended had flags raised and were not hired. Has the best line when he raises the question of "Should I have known?" and answers "I wish I had known."
Jennifer Wiley: Again, Davis attempts to throw UNC under the bus. Reiterates that she was recommended to him by UNC. Suggests issues arose when UNC didn't properly inform her she couldn't have any contact with athletes after she was fired from tutor job.
Parking tickets: Cites number of tickets issued and revenue generated, as if that is relevant. Parking area for players attending practice was under construction (for 3 1/2 years?) and tickets were issued when they had not been in the past. As soon as football office found out, "individuals were notified and they put their accounts in order."
216 records: Up to the court. The issue to Davis is private contact information, not that anything will be found, and he has offered for the judge to review them in private. Also said UNC's outside counsel who reviewed his records was a former NCAA investigator, so it must have been Rick Evrard.
Most of this is not new news. There are a couple of points of contention, such as when Davis says UNC didn't properly inform Wiley about contact after she was fired, but the problem is, A) I'm pretty sure UNC provided the documentation where she was informed and B) this ignores why she was fired in the first place. Also, he glosses over the entire parking ticket issue as to how those accounts were put into order, but these are minor points.
Personally, I have been dismayed at the inability of Butch Davis to just go away. His presence around the program and his attendance at games, plus the cult of personality of board monkeys who think he is some combination of Bear Bryant, Vince Lombardi, and George Patton, has bordered on creepy. But it occurred to me that he has never been fired before - he hitched his star to Jimmy Johnson in 1979 and the only time he came close to being fired, he quit in Cleveland with four games remaining - so maybe he just doesn't know how to handle it. Over and over again he has demonstrated an inability to get what this entire situation was about. Still, I was figuring he would just sit in his tub and take a treasure bath with his $2.7 million buyout and quietly seek employment elsewhere.
But therein lies the problem, and the purpose of this media blitz. Rightly or wrongly (and it is not the purpose to engage in deceased equine abuse about that issue at this point), Butch Davis might be seen as damaged goods. With an opening already at Ole Miss and others certain to be on the horizon soon, one would think that someone with Davis' credentials would be a top candidate for a job somewhere. But either his agent and attorney are being pre-emptive for any potential objections that might arise, or there is already a bad vibe out there regarding the fact that his program was accused of nine major violations on his watch.
Ultimately these pieces were not produced for Butch's current fans or detractors, as his platitudes about his commitment to academics or comments about the program issues will not change how anyone affected by the UNC scandal feels about him. No, this was done for prospective employers in advance of the hiring season that will begin in the next few weeks. The video in particular feels like a recruiting pitch from a guy who seems like he wants to coach next season.
In the next six weeks, UNC should have a new coach who will guide the program into a new era. Maybe Butch Davis will finally be able to move on as well.